Half a dozen years and counting: Another year of roughghosting passes

Like clockwork, WordPress has kindly reminded me that I have been managing this small corner of the internet for six years. In the context of the Golden Age of literary blogs I have heard tell of,  I arrived after its lamented demise, but that’s okay. I have never aspired to greatness, nor do I think of myself as a literary, or rather, book blogger in any formal sense. Roughghosts is a space for idle musings like this and occasional reviews, some more formal than others. I like the freedom that affords even as accepted review copies pile up around me. It means that I can generally read what I want, if I can find the time, and write about it if moved to do so. Increasingly time is precious, the days and years pass too quickly, and I often find myself picking up books for deeply personal reasons that I do not want, or am not ready, to discuss out in the vast virtual open space.

Looking back through my archives I notice that I skipped this annual stock-taking activity last year, but my offering from the year before, May 31, 2018, still stands as if it could have been written yesterday. More or less. Do I really evolve so little? I’ve riffed on the same themes more than once over the years, but today I feel a heaviness that is not entirely accountable to the worldwide spread of a virus that is testing our resilience and laying bare the inequities that divide us within and between national borders or the civil unrest currently sweeping across the US…

For the past year I have been little more than treading water as an editor—a volunteer editor at that—a commitment that has left little time for me to amuse my inclination to think of myself as either a critic or a writer. From the background I have witnessed and very often nursed a great many essays and reviews into existence while realizing as I close in on sixty that the likelihood that I will ever write anything worth publishing myself is slim.  This feeling has been exacerbated by the fact that I’ll be unable to travel this year, and very likely well into next. I miss being able to connect with friends and fellow writers face to face; I mourn the loss of the opportunity to step away from editing pressures and the ongoing despair of living with an adult child who continues to drink whenever he manages to get his hands on money. If COVID-19 has forced us into ourselves, for many of us it’s a lonely and isolating space.

And so, roughghosts goes on. Traffic is respectable even though I rarely post more than five or six times a month and make little effort to promote my work. I’m always pleased and a little surprised that people actually read my offerings; invite me to review their books. I grateful for the attention, it means a lot, but to be honest, I maintain this humble corner of the internet for myself, more than anything. It’s a place for reading, reviewing, writing and wondering, and every now and then, shouting into the darkness.

Thanks for being here with me.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

28 thoughts on “Half a dozen years and counting: Another year of roughghosting passes”

  1. I think I’ve been reading your blog for 4 or 5 of those years. With true interest and respect. You are a fine writer. And if I had one thing to say (from the lofty heights of my 65 years!), it’s that we don’t get these years back. It’s important for us to take our own creative work as seriously as we take the work we do in service to others. Important, though never really easy. But a few sentences lead to a few more. Take heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s interesting to go back through your archives to see how quick we were to find you. Winston’s Dad and Booker Talk were there almost from the beginning, and so was Sue from Whispering Gums.
    That tells us something about the quality of your writing here.
    Lisa x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Shadowing the International Foreign Fiction Prize (now Booker) in 2015 made me into a book blogger—I probably read more and wrote more reviews that year. Before that bookish posts were slipping into my blog but that was a turning point!


      1. Ah, so that’s how it happened… I enjoyed those early days of the Shadow Jury when Stu was running it… but it became much too big and unwieldly and too much work to keep up with so many reviews of the same book.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember you as a commenter on KevinfromCanada’s blog so your online presence has been around a lot longer than 6 years. I was delighted when you created your own blog because you always left such erudite comments. I enjoy your writing, it’s heartfelt and eloquent and there’s a touch of melancholia to it which appeals. You plough your own farrow and I’m always a big admirer of anyone who does that. Congrats on your 6 years; may there be many more.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One thing I’ve always found stirring about your writing is its compassion; your personal writing and your criticism are deeply forgiving even when you, the writer, the critic, are exhausted and honest about your exhaustion. I wonder – did you learn, gradually, that literary criticism doesn’t have to be scolding, or is this something you’ve always known as a writer? My own attempts at criticism too often founder on “scolding,” a need to be in a position of authority. The wisdom of your writing never depends on criticism’s typical props of wisdom, its nods to “authority.” Appreciating a poem or story is real work, not just scribbling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hilary. I’ve never appreciated negative scolding reviews (if I feel I want to scold an author it’s a sure sign I should not be reading or writing about their book). When I started writing critically for a publication (the “late” Numero Cinq), the editor sent out guidelines I have lived by as a critic and as an editor of reviews. He would tolerate no hatchet jobs and suggested that even if a book had its shortcomings, the author was trying their best, it’s up to you as a critic to try to see what they were aiming for. Writing into a work rather than against it teaches you to be a more sensitive reader and I have often grown to really appreciate a work that at first left me cool. With my blog I have the freedom to respond personally to a work, or write about books by people I know—both things I would not do in a formal critical review because for the most part I believe good critical writing involves keeping your ego out of the way. You’re there, of course, but your job is to open the text for another reader, not tell the author how they should or should not do their job. At least that’s how I see it.


    1. Thank you, Cathy. I was thinking to day how I admire your commitment to leading group reading projects. I’ve learned not to make book commitments I think. 😀


  5. Happy blogging birthday, and thank you for continuing to fight the good fight here! “Golden ages” of blogging may have passed, but I think that is what makes places like this even more valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I must have been reading your blog since near the beginning. I always enjoy reading what you write and particularity admire the way you discuss literature in a very personal way and so draw out a text’s meanings – something I’ve never been able to do! Like you, I remember the Shadow Jury with great fondness.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations! And. Do not stop writing on your own terms in your own space. This is one of the few freedoms all of us keeping these kind of blogs still have and enjoy. Sending you much love, dear Joe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Even if you do feel as though you are primarily maintaining this space for personal reasons, it’s telling that so many of us have found a spot to nestle into a comfy oversized chair with another reader, or a spot in the shadows along the wall to lean, or a dusty throw rug to rest on. We want to share in what you want to say and it will be lovely to see you shift back to your own words after having so many good editorial experiences in recent months/years, with this increasing awareness of time’s passing (and of how our witnessing of a loved one’s inability to cope can be both an impediment and also an incentive, depending how we choose to view it, which can shift from one minute to the next). Here’s to another writing year!


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