I noticed on my Goodreads account that so far this year I have merely favored three books with a rating of five stars, as opposed to last year’s total of 14 books earning five stars. I wonder if I am on rocky ground. In a fit of enthusiasm I entered our new book A Sample of Gouda on the site and am waiting for Every Person Reviews. Fearing critics may be as harsh as myself, I ask myself “Do I like myself on goodreads?” My criteria for giving five stars to a book has to do with many things, such as is the moon in Jupiter, or did I have to clean up excessive hairball regurgitation this week and what I mean by this is, what is the novelty of the item to my eyes? What pleasure does it bring me? Generally I see on goodreads that books, famous books, less famous books, quixotic books, boring books, all of them tend to hang around the three stars rating. That I may expect-fear-observe that our book be rated on average three stars would, all in all, be a good thing. I feel that kind of relief overcome me that people who worry about whether they are having enough sex to be like everybody else feel when they realize they make the cut, and everything pans out socially okay, in theory: I am therefore reasonably attractive, and people may like me. And my book. Our book, photographs by Vinita Salomé.
Average, I repeat to myself, realizing that in the four previous years I tended to average rating ten books (out of the 40 or 50 I read annually) a year as five star stuff. The boxes of books littering the corners my apartment have been unpacked, the volumes roughly shelved in a vague system of order as per continent (fiction) and then nonfiction (general). A great deal of items have been disposed of, yet still there is a remainder of books I haven’t read and before I chuck more, I mean to read or attempt to read them. The simple autobiography of George Washington Carver, for example, in which I waded through twenty pages before deciding that I would happily read a more academic work on the historical figure; the enormous Complete New History of Scotland whose mandatory sentences, chunky, of the bronze age era were so poorly formulated that I quickly came to the conclusion that I would gladly read a more precise subject within the topic of Scotland; the relating of early settler experiences in North America which were so racist, self-righteous and downright antagonist that I would prefer a more modern depiction of life other than the war path or be confronted with the Pseudo Make America Great Again Club. I had expected that I would enjoy the book on Scotland and the book on early eyewitness accounts of America, thus I was slightly disappointed that I with such great clarity of mind resigned them into the “resell” corner of my closet near the front door. No five stars. I didn’t review them, as I didn’t finish them, and, in all fairness, it is also why I am not so fond of checking the “uninteresting” box or category on goodreads.
Obviously I started my little Read In Entirety My Haphazardly Collected Library project by reading the more interesting items, and now I am digging around the dregs and give out less stars, although I do hold some hope for the book on the Vikings, or the one on the Holy Grail, or the one on Gregory of Tours, and rereading Vanity Fair, a book I haven’t picked up since I was thirteen. Not so sure about the Letters of Pliny. Does any of this sound like five star material?
The book I picked up out of the trash across the street, just to note that there were several boxes of books set out as trash and that I did not pick my way through cucumber peelings to access the books, unsoiled, has appealed to me most of the last five books I have read. Short stories by Martin Hart, written in Dutch, that remind me of Gouda. Apparently his works have been widely translated and are popular abroad. In the book I am reading he describes rural Dutch life: water, bikes, barns, church services, brown cafes, and so forth. I touched upon such matters for the texts of our book A Sample of Gouda but with my own twist to the topics.
Popularity, the angst we all have about this topic is itself story making material. Acquaintances have been kindly trying to get our book promoted by way of a presentation at a social club I joined upon moving to Amsterdam. The season has just started up, and having gone to the first meeting at the social club, publicity for the next event was revealed to feature two bloggers with businesses in Amsterdam. Genuinely I was happy for the ladies who will be presenting because I am sure that they will pull in a good audience and, for the first time, a moderator will be attending. It’s just that the event organizer looks at me with some queasiness every time I see her as if she thinks I expect her to ask me to speak. I admire the organizer’s choice because she chose a topic that has a wide appeal, food. And people like to read restaurant reviews, for they like to eat. I certainly don’t expect her to invite us, although I would be honored, and in the meantime I am happy to report that we have gotten two thumbs up reviews in the media for the book, which is not for everyone, as one reviewer said, “this is not the top ten items to see list” type of book about the Netherlands.
As I sat there looking at the promotion of the two bloggers that will be presenting I asked myself once again what the heck should one blog about? It’s true the few food blogs I wrote were picked up and circulated by other people in mainstream media and gained more readers, but funnily enough the one titled The Richness of Life is Not Material, Even a Child Understands This, has been the most popular blogs I ever wrote.