I’m playing another memory game. I want to recollect the books I’ve read. Because there are no diaries or commonplace books or journals to refer to, I start by listing the books I’ve reviewed. Then I go to my Chicago Public Library account and scroll through the history but it turns out to be 95% music CDs. My brain is mush. Why didn’t I keep track as I went? Now it feels like pawing through a field in the dark.
The internet gamifies everything. Faves and listicles help the robots sell us more and more crap we don’t need but somehow can’t live without. Then we get it and forget all about it minutes after cutting it out of the cardboard. Every social media platform is a turbo engine fueled by envy, FOMO, greed, etc. Having the thing isn’t enough; it’s that the other guy doesn’t have it but wants it that makes yours sparkle.
I try like hell not to get on those hamster wheels but I also don’t want to lose track of what I take in. It’s why I joined Letterboxd a few months ago. The site helped me recover over three thousand movies I’m pretty sure I watched at some point. I know a lot of them had an impact, shaped what I made in small ways. For the most part the Letterboxd experiment has been worthwhile. It’s a way of staying accountable. Now when I watch something, I log in and mark it. Sometimes I write a sentence or two. No stars, but I hit the ‘like’ button occasionally. The one thing that started eating at me was the followers/following business. I followed only a few people. All ones who I know in real life. Still, seeing what they watched and reading their ratings began to eat at me. It created an expectation of reaction. I’m happy my friends like what they like but I don’t really need to know about it on an internet platform. They can tell me when I see them or when I read their reviews somewhere that isn’t a social network. I deleted all my follows. Now I don’t follow anyone.
I’m a pioneer.
That was a joke.
I’m hoping they know me well enough by now not to be offended. I use that site for one purpose and others’ likes and dislikes isn’t it.
Doing the same for books is why I join The Story Graph. It’s sort of Goodreads minus Bezos or writer-on-writer drama.
Now you can read every book review I’ve written publicly in one place. I go to my bookshelves to remind myself of what else I’ve read and input the data. I’m not following anyone or seeking to be followed. Aside from my own purposes, I’ll be happy if my list of books is a resource for a few people. No public acknowledgement necessary.
The other day I go to Tangible intending to spend a couple hours shelving and completely lose track of time. It’s nearing the 7pm closing time and Joe is turning off the lights as I’m moving the last of the Horror section next to Paranormal—the place it should have always been. Before that, I alphabetize the Parenting section, move Myth next to Occult and put Chicago in Myth’s place in order to make more room in the Fiction area. Those newly free shelves before the A’s prompt a snail’s pace shifting of the letters that follow. I run out of room somewhere in L’s but now there’s a lot more room to maneuver.
I walk out of the store exhausted. A few hours later I’m home again with the computer open, trying to remember what books I read and when I read them.