Australian LitBlog Snapshot #10 - Jonathan Shaw

Jonathan Shaw's weblog Family Life, started out, as he puts it, as "a patchy journal about family life", but has moved on from that. Or maybe just expanded to include Jonathan's other interests.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

Contrary to the best advice my blog doesn't have a central organising subject or theme. Nor is it the "mindless production" that some say has replaced mindless consumption in the new business model of the Internet. It's a little as if under my outer clothing I should be wearing a T-shirt that says, 'I'M BLOGGING THIS', to be revealed like a superhero costume whenever the spirit moves me. I've always enjoyed columns in magazines like The Listener or The Spectator where a different public person every week writes a kind of diary, and in some ways my blog started out as a version of that: notes on things I stumble across that interest me, amuse me, intrigue me, move me, and that I think other people may respond to. Since I'm a relatively bookish person, by trade (I've been an editor for nearly 40 years) and by inclination (for at least 50 years, I've felt uneasy whenever there wasn't a book I was currently reading), a lot of the things I write about are books and book related news. I don't write anything as considered as reviews; it's more like an informal account of my reading.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Yes. When I first started blogging in May 2003, I was editor of a children's literary magazine, and I thought of my personal blog as a matter of experimentation to get the hang of the medium so as to evaluate whether it might be a good way to increase the magazine's web presence and interactivity. At the same time, my mother-in-law, who was living with us, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it seemed that a blog keeping track of what was happening to our family would be of interest to other people in similar situations, as well as imposing a much needed discipline on my own responses. My children were in their late teenage years, and I thought a blog might be a relatively unproblematic way for them to get to know me from a different perspective (ha! of course, neither of them would dream of reading it!). I had other possibilities in mind, and the first entries are, embarrassingly, little more than diary entries that assume a readership of zero. But after I'd played around for a couple of months, the blog became its own thing. Writing one in conjunction with the magazine raised far too many

When I'd been blogging for five or six months, I had a narrative thrust upon me: my partner of twenty-something years developed severe abdominal pain, which medical test after medical test failed to diagnose. It looked more and more likely that the cause of her pain was pancreatic cancer. After major surgery found nothing, the cause turned out to be relatively minor, the kind of thing that a visit to a good osteopath would have cleared up and saved months of anguish. As always with such crises, there were many people who wanted to keep track of developments, and the blog became a way to fill that need.

Once things were back to normal, especially as my mother-in-law had now moved into care, the blog subsided into cheerful directionlessness. When I read Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree at the start of 2006, I began a reasonably systematic account of my reading -- a monthly blog entry at first, but now less schematic than that. I recently received my first complimentary copy of a publication with a request that I review it.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes. Why not?

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

A. Occasional interviews -- with children's writers and illustrators who aren't well known. B. An exploration of people I've known when young whose lives have taken interesting turns, or people like the old boy of one of my schools who wrote the theme tune of a cult TV show, but about whom I know nothing else.
C. It would require more than time and money -- more like a change to the laws of libel and sedition -- but I'd love to write up the bits of inside stories I hear from various people who work for the Government in various capacities.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

With extreme reluctance and distaste.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 15, 2008 11:07 AM.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #9 - "The Sunday Times" was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #141 - My Father's Moon by Elizabeth Jolley is the next entry in this blog.

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