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Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr., 1924

A Holiday to Matheran

As we left our holiday cottage, to return home in the city, my wife said, "Look over your shoulder before you leave so that we come back again." Read about our recent trip to Matheran, the forest on the head, and the smallest hill station in India, at B+ve.

November 25, 2012

A blogger’s dilemma 

A "Bookshelf with music writings" is the title of this vintage art by Italian
Baroque painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi, on display at the Civico Museo
Bibliografico Musicale (international museum and library of music) in Bologna.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It’s a little over three years since I started blogging and the one thing I have learnt over this period is that you have to be very focused while blogging. I started to blog in August 2009 and my posts in the first year covered all sorts of topics including current affairs, my other chief area of interest outside of books, music and cinema not to mention chess, comics and crosswords.

It took plenty of visits to other people’s blogs and websites, listed to your right, before I realised that what you need for a blog to get going, in terms of a unique selling point and incoming traffic, is to specialise in one or two areas, such as books and films. So I took my blog to the cleaners: I removed all posts that were not connected with either books or films. I write about music occasionally, under Music & Lyrics, and don’t remember the last time I wrote anything about chess and crosswords.

Chess and crosswords are still two of my favourite pastimes. My father taught me chess when I was in first standard (grade) and showed me how to solve and compile crosswords by the time I was in the eighth. We used to put our heads together and solve the challenging London Times cryptic crossword that was popular among journalists in India. We also compiled crosswords for our respective newspapers. Later, my wife and I solved 
concise and cryptic crosswords in various newspapers. These were trivial pursuits but they were immensely satisfying. 

I still read and collect comic-books, which I have categorised under books. I write about comics as often as I remember to, though I haven’t posted anything of consequence lately. 

Our limited bookshelf is like a chameleon: it changes colours depending
on what we’re going to read in coming days. The rest of our books are in wall cabinets,
in the attic, and in my office cabinet. The little black box on the extreme right is
the router (wi-fi modem). Photo: Thayn P. Trikannad

Today, I post almost entirely about books and films and, in my view, it poses a new dilemma, one I hadn't noticed till the other day. Take books, for instance. Owing to my wide interest in fiction, I tend to read all kinds of books and across all genres with the exception of romance, especially the Harlequin type. I once picked up a novel by Barbara Cartland out of sheer curiosity because she was hugely popular in India, in the 1970s and 1980s. It didn't click. The grand dame of historical romances holds the Guinness World Record for the most novels—23 in 1983—published in a single year. 

I have gone off track...

Most of the blogs I visit are dedicated to specific genres, in the main western, detective-mystery, crime and suspense, war, horror, and sf and fantasy, and they are doing a terrific job. Click on any of the blogs on the right and you’ll see what I mean.

My question is: do you think reviewing books across genres keeps away readers who are inclined to visit genre-specific blogs like detective-fiction? Am I at a disadvantage when I cover all fiction?

To give you an idea, between September and November I reviewed books from seven different genres and this is what it looked like…

Western: Saddle on a Cloud by Frank C. Robertson & The Lone Deputy by Wayne D. Overholser

Espionage: Journey Toward Death by Amos Aricha

Thriller: The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty

Mystery: The secret Adversary and The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Crime and Suspense: Cape Fear (The Executioners) by John D. MacDonald

Horror: Anthologies: Best Ghost Stories, The Haunted Hour, and Devil Stories by various authors

Comics: The Mighty Marvel Superheroes’ Cookbook

If you’re strictly into, say, detective-mystery, which appears to be the running flavour among many bloggers, would you hop over to my blog and read the above reviews? More importantly, would you come back?

I hope you do…

24 comments:

  1. I have not been quite so focused but generally I'm fairly focused. However, of late I've really let time pass between posts.

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    1. Charles, you are focused in your blog posts about books. I have enjoyed reading the "Graham Charleston's Reports" and thought it was a great marketing idea. I would like to post more often than I do but at the same time I don't want to post for the sake of posting, so it's now twice or thrice a week.

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  2. I keep coming back to your posts because you write about interesting books, mystery or not. (Films too.) I think you should cover everything you read in the blog. I vote for diversity of coverage.

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    1. Tracy, thank you for the encouragement and the support. I read a lot but don't get enough time to write about everything I read, which, in any case, is not necessary. I generally stick to previewing and reviewing one book each during the week. I vote for "diversity of coverage" too even in books and films.

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  3. A very good question. My first response is be true to yourself. Long term you are your blog's most important reader. I have been posting lately on a lot of Irish literature as well as Indian short stories. This is not to attack readers but reflects what I read. Much of my readership comes from google searches. Some of the posts on my blog might get 50 readers and some 50,000. The most read posts by far are on pre WW II short stories from the Philippines and secondly on R K Narayan. I take this to because there is very little on these topics on the Internet and the stories are widely read and assigned in schools. I follow your blog because I like your focus and insights. I also like old movies.

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    1. Mel, thank you for the kind words. Although I am quite comfortable with what I post, I write with the reader in mind though you have a point about a blogger being his or her own "most important reader" over time. I visit your blog regularly and though I don't always leave a comment, I marvel at your ability and consistency to regale your readers with reviews of short stories from all corners of the world. You have introduced me to a wide variety of short story writers. I am sure it has not been easy to stay focused on short stories and write about them every single day. The works of R.K. Narayan, the celebrated Indian writer, continue to be in demand and I am happy to see people buying his books in Indian bookstores.

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  4. As you know I'm fond of poetry & post on it, but it's not my only interest , I also post on fiction, nonfiction & also have a page devoted to Single malt whisky & have in the past posted on specific brands & will do again if I like a particular bottle. So my answer is post for yourself, if I was after followers I'd drop the poetry as it's normally my least successful postings.
    PS. It's fun finding what you've chosen to post on, although I may not always like the subject matter.

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    1. Parrish Lantern, thanks for your comments. Posting for oneself appears to be the consensus and I'll bear that in mind the next time I post something, though I have been writing about stuff I am really comfortable with. I have read many of your posts and insights on poets and their poetry and you have introduced me to several poets I'd never heard of before. I read a bit of poetry myself and have a few poetry books from the Romantic and Victorian eras, though I must confess that I am not at all familiar with modern-day poetry. I too like finding out what other bloggers have posted and often learn something new even if it's not up my alley.

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  5. For me it is not the genre that matters. I somehow seem to just like the style of writing maybe of the blogger and there are heaps of blogs which cover several different genres as well.

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    1. Mystica, I am already feeling better—thanks! It's worth visiting different blogs for their different writing styles which is as important as the genres they cover. The aesthetics of a blog doesn't count much for me.

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  6. I keep coming back because you have unusual insights into books, Prashant, and I enjoy reading about life in India which almost always finds its way into your posts. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and with your blog it works well. My blog, on the other hand, is the work of a greatly diseased and obsessed mind. I should find a way to add more variety but I'm afraid I've unwittingly set a trap and fallen into it.

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    1. John, thanks for your appreciation. I don't write as much about life in India in my posts as I'd like to though it keeps creeping in once in a while. There is, however, plenty to write about books and films from an India point of view and it would probably require a separate blog or a separate channel within an existing one. I'd love to do something like that but I don't have the time. I'll take your description of your own blog in a positive light for I enjoy reading your reviews of unusual books, such as THE DOUBLE DEATH OF FRÉDÉRIC BELOT by Claude Aveline and SINGULAR CASE OF THE MULTIPLE DEAD by Mark McShane, in your distinctive writing style. I think there's enough variety on your blog, notably the "Left Inside" (liked what you found in your books on the last two occasions) and "Challenge to the Reader Trivia Contest" which looks far too challenging for me to attempt. I am following it, though.

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  7. I find that as long as the writing is accessible, I'm very happy to read blogs that write on a wide variety of subjects. It's often lead me to read and enjoy books that I wouldn't normally have reached for. I like the eclectic feel of your blog Prashant, I don't find it unfocused.

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    1. Che, thank you for the kind words. I couldn't agree with you more. Over the past two years, I have been introduced to lots of books I'd never heard of before, especially early westerns and crime-fiction that I am now reading both as physical books and ebooks. Ditto for films. And the credit must go to all the wonderful blogs on books and short stories, and films, I visit including yours. I have learned much from my diurnal and nocturnal trips to these blogs.

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  8. I know exactly how you feel Prashant and I'm pretty new at this blogging business really. I very occasionally review audio, full-cast radio productions rather than spoken books, and I got a lot less traffic for those reviews. I do love the feedback but I try not to let that govern what I write too much, but I know I have occasionally made reading and reviewing choices because I think i will get some good feedback. Personally, I enjoy the great variety of your posts, not least because I learn new things, though of course I realise my personal feedback will vary depending on familiarity with the subject at hand. Thanks very much chum, I enjoy your blog greatly.

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    1. Sergio, thanks very much for your words of appreciation. It has taken me a while to get the hang of blogging and I know my blog could do with some tinkering here and there, all in due course. I only post audio-video links when I am writing about music or a musical film, which isn't very often. I am not too particular about feedback though I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't admit that it's a good feeling to find comments below the posts. I do, however, need to respond to the feedback as quickly as you do. One of the things I have learned from your blog, apart from being introduced to books, films and television series I have never heard of, is your penetrating insight of the books and films you review. I have the time to attempt more comprehensive reviews, what I don't have is the patience, which doesn't do your writing any good.

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  9. I'll echo what others have said here, Prashant, and say that I think you should keep writing about what interests you. That's what makes blogs in general and yours in particular interesting, their unique take on a common (or uncommon, as the case may be) subject. I don't read a huge slew of book blogs, but find your reviews (as well as Sergio's, Todd Mason's, John's and a handful of others) good and engrossing reading.

    I first started my blog with the intent of reviewing books as well as films. Sadly, I've only done one initial post on books and almost everything else has been focused on movies and to a lesser extent, TV. I need to spend a bit more time on the books section of my site. I think you're doing a good job of balancing your interests here, and I for one like seeing a varied selection of genres covered. Of course, like John, I also appreciate the aspects of Indian culture which you sometimes include in your posts.

    In other words, keep doing what you're doing!

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    1. Jeff, thanks very much for the booster and the appreciation. I often think of writing more India stuff, particularly in areas of books and films, than I do now. On the few occasions that I have, it has been well received. I need to give this aspect more thought considering the growing interest in Indian arts, culture, and entertainment. Some of the book blogs you mentioned are terrific and the reviews over there are truly engrossing as are yours, Jeff. I am going to take this opportunity to tell you how much I enjoy your film reviews both in terms of your choice and content and especially the many images and posters that tell their own story. The picture of the young man in the jaws of Jaws was a first for me and I agree the film is a "masterpiece" which, in my opinion, owes its resounding success to the shark music. I would be greatly interested in reading your book reviews.

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  10. I love your blog. You introduce me to new things, familiar things, and generally get me thinking. Keep it up!

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    1. Fleur, thank you very much. I am glad you enjoy reading this blog and that it has introduced you to new things. Funny thing is I often write about stuff that are new to me as well, so in a way I am introducing myself to new things as well. I am taking delight in reading and watching the many "new" books and films that our fellow-bloggers have been writing about.

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  11. Prashant: I started blogging for fun not profit. I write about what I read which is mainly mysteries as reflected in my blog title. I chose not to limit myself to mysteries. I cannot see how you would enjoy writing a blog that does not reflect your overall interests. You do not need a separate blog for every interest.

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    1. Bill, thanks very much for visiting my blog and commenting. Blogging is fun, I agree, more so when you're thinking of new ideas for a post, in terms of books and film reviews. I find it a challenge. I like the surprise element of a blog, one's own and those of others. For instance, Bill, I discovered lots of mystery authors on your blog as part of the 2012 Alphabet in Crime Fiction Meme you participated in. None of these writers were familiar to me. I have been enjoying writing about my many interests though I now focus more on books, films, and music. There is much to write about in these areas without having to add some of my other interests to the blog which, as you rightly point out, does not require a separate blog.

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  12. I like your blog, Prashant, because I enjoy your company. You express yourself thoughtfully and with a kind of discipline about language. So whatever interests you often catches my interest, because of the way you write about it.

    Something I've noticed is that some bloggers feel much freer than I do talking about personal things, their families, their ups and downs, vacations and holidays, etc. I discover that I'm much more of a private person and feel awkward doing that.

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    1. Ron, your kind words and your appreciation of my blog mean much to me—thank you! I feel the same way about your "company" through your blog and your excellent reviews of books and films. Not only have you introduced me to some fine writers and actors, especially western, you have enriched me with your incisive knowledge of the books and films you review so well, very unlike the slapdash reviews you are likely to find here.

      I am not very comfortable writing about personal matters either though I occasionally let on about the family in the context of a post or two. I have visited blogs that are deeply personal in content though it's not surprising that these blogs have enormous followers. After all, people are the same wherever you go, with the same ups and downs, happy and sad moments in their lives, and whatever.

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