Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Once Upon A Beginning

Hello! Welcome to me Learning To Read. It’s OK, by the way, I can actually read already. Otherwise, this writing would be pretty miraculous.

But if I can already read, why’s it called Learning To Read? Seems a bit thick, to be honest? This, and many other points, will be answered in my responses to an imaginary and formulaic interviewer, who I shall christen Michael Owen.

MO: What is this blog?

This blog is/will be/has in the future become, essentially One Thing. It will probably include lots of meanders, diversions and distractions from this One Thing, but these will just be there to test you.

The One Thing is: books.

I read a lot. In fact, I think I read too much. Put it this way: Have you ever been asked if you’ve read a particular book, and you can’t remember if you have or not? Or you remember that you’ve read it, but can’t remember a thing about it? Or even if you liked it?

I have. And I think it means I read too much. At the very least, it means I read more than I remember. And considering what an investment of time and imaginative cooperation with the author reading a book can be, that’s a little bit shameful. To put it another way, I’m a little bit ashamed.

It won’t happen again. I must either read less, or I must remember more. The thing is, reading is too much fun to do less of. Though I will probably cut down a bit when I have a child (or is that smoking?)

QED, ipso facto, I must remember more. To this end, every book I read will be mentioned on this blog. How good it was, what I liked about it, why the main character is just like me, really, when you think about it... never again will I forget the clever insight I had about Chapter 11, and look bad in conversation.

MO: When is this blog?

Good question, Mr Owen. This blog will last ten years. From 4th March 2010, until 4th March 2020, in fact.

If that doesn’t sound scary to you, it does to me. Ten years? I don’t know if I can stick to anything that long. This is also an experiment in will, as well. A bit, anyway.

Is there anything I’ve stuck to in the last ten years? Breathing, speaking, and saying ‘gosh’ don’t count. You know, I don’t even collect football stickers anymore.

MO: Why is this blog?

I’m glad you asked that, Michael. Mark Watson, comedian, novelist and two-time director of Sleepless In Seattle, has issued a challenge (http://www.markwatsonthecomedian.com/web/blog/). A Ten Year Self-Improvement Challenge, in fact. Better known as a TYSIC.

His TYSIC is to become more optimistic. As I’m already painfully optimistic, I couldn’t just steal his idea... instead, my TYSIC is to be published in some form by 4th March 2020. ‘In some form’ really means to have a novel published, by a real publisher. You know, for money.

I’m doing lots of things to improve my chances (like going on long, thoughtful walks, organising my desk, doing bouts of star-jumps, and occasionally even writing.) On top of these, I will be reading.

I intend to learn to read with a more critical approach, and try to consciously learn from what I read. I want to know what I enjoy about reading, and also why. If this approach stops me enjoying the reading, it’s backfiring on itself. If that happens, I will have to learn to enjoy critically reading, that’s all. I’ve got to learn something. Hence, Learning To Read.

MO: Who is this blog?

Mike... that question doesn’t really work, does it? I’ll say who I am, instead. I am Ben Carroll, resident of Norwich, Philosophy graduate of Nottingham University, self-indulgently creative family member, bookshop assistant and part-time resident of the real world.

I also have internet connection, a typewriter, several ‘pet likes’, and no allergies. I do not condone or condemn really big hair: it’s your head, after all.

MO: How is this blog?

Shhh. Now you’re just being silly.


  1. Which of the several Michael Owens' is interviewing you? Is he also susceptible to injury? Is he really that small?

  2. A Nottingham graduate eh? Very nice. Which hall?

    By the way, I've got a question Michael neglected to ask: Which is this blog?

  3. a) Willoughby

    b) It's not that one, but the other one.

  4. Nice. I was across the road in Florence Boot. The only memories I have of Willoughby are either of awkwardly sobriety or of blind drunkenness, depending on the direction of campus 14.

  5. Saw your post in the NaNo forums and thought I'd check your blog out as I'm always looking for new blogs to follow. It's an interesting challenge, and it looks like you have your work cut out for you.

    I have the same problems with reading sometimes, so I challenged myself to write a review of every book I read on my book list for the year. It's been fun so far. Anyway, good luck with your blog, and I'll be back to see what books you review and what comments you have for them.