Monday, December 20, 2021

fiction section selection direction

A couple of observations following the last book review: firstly that this post that you're reading now breaks a sequence of five consecutive book review posts (Family Album, Outline, Thud!, Call For The Dead, The Shipping News), which I'm pretty sure equals a record set between November 2018 and January 2019 and observed here. [EDIT: anyone equipped with the ability to a) look at stuff and b) count will spot that it's actually a record-busting sequence of six, The Day Of The Jackal being the missing one right at the start]. Also observed there is that this isn't necessarily a cause for celebration, as it just reveals the dwindling of posts on matters other than what I've been reading lately. There are a number of reasons for this: parenting duties for multiple children, limited opportunities in a pandemic to go out and do blog-worthy stuff and probably most importantly since mid-2016 (when the blog atrophy really set in in earnest) a general feeling of futility about expressing any sort of opinion about anything in the wake of Brexit and Trump (and subsequently Johnson) happening. As many people whose day-to-day business it is much more directly than mine have said, this stuff is the death of satire - nothing you could ever make up could be as simultaneously frightening and absurd.

Anyway, let's snap out of that sort of attitude and return to more important topics, like: all this book review stuff is great, but how do you choose which book you're going to read next? Well, there are a few criteria, although in general I like not to second-guess myself too much and steer clear of giving it too much though until the moment of needing to make a decision arrives (like, for instance, I've just finished a book and I really need a poo). There are obvious ones like probably not doing two Projects back to back ...

... keeping an eye on not getting too male-author-centric, usually following a longish book with a shortish one and vice versa, and likewise a "light" book with a more serious one. None of these rules is actually so much of a rule that it can't be broken if I feel like it, though. 

Another way of looking at it is illustrated by the image below: my fiction bookshelves are arranged alphabetically by author as the basic minimum level of non-insane good sense dictates. So are the unread titles evenly distributed? Recall that there is some distortion in terms of alphabetic distribution, partly (but not entirely) brought about by my having several large blocks of books by the same authors (Iain Banks, Dick Francis, Stephen King to name but the most obvious suspects). 

The numbers here denote how many unread novels there are in each section - I can't remember whether I included The Shipping News in the numbers or not, but it doesn't really matter. For the purposes of the analysis that follows you'll need to imagine that the columns are lettered A-D and the rows numbered 1-6 as if the whole thing were an Excel spreadsheet.

So it's easy to see that the distribution isn't particularly even - the zeroes at D3 and B4 are largely due to a block of John Irvings and a block of Stephen Kings respectively (the one at D6 is due to that section being empty), and Iain Banks and Dick Francis largely account for the two ones at A3 and C1. The highest count in a single section is seven at D2, mostly among the Es and Fs, and there is a run of three adjacent sections at B5, C5 and D5 that includes seventeen incorporating the end of the Ms through to nearly the end of the Ss. So I could impose some sort of rule obliging me to do some sort of affirmative action shit and choose my next book from one of the most deprived areas on the shelves. I'm not going to, but I could. 

No comments: