Sunday, March 17, 2013

When a Blog Becomes a Book

Some bloggers are funny, and some are downright hilarious. The funniest bloggers tend to also consider themselves a little crazy (except Raych at Books I Done Read, who is only crazy when it comes to making up her own grammar. Which cracks me up.)

I'd never read The Bloggess before being offered a copy of her book (now out in paperback) from the publicist. After checking out her blog, I decided she was funny enough and crazy enough to warrant reading the book. Was I right?

Well, Let's Pretend This Never Happened definitely made me laugh, so in that sense, yes.

Reading it really made me think about the differences in writing styles for different genres, though. Specifically, blog writing vs. memoir writing vs. novel writing.

Let me be clear that I'm not talking about writing ability. There are certainly plenty of bloggers out there whose unedited writing is nothing special, but those particular bloggers aren't getting book deals.

Incidentally, there are also plenty of published authors who would be incapable of amassing a large blog audience, much less entertaining them on a regular basis. Blogging effectively takes a certain style of writing--an in-your-face style that grabs readers' attention on the screen before they can click away to the next thing. Most people who read books will give them at least 2-3 pages before deciding it's not for them. Blog readers will give you a paragraph. Unless it's a long paragraph, in which case....C-ya.

Lawson's writing style is perfect for blogging. She has an irreverent and self-deprecating sense of humor, and a no-holds-barred honesty that probably embarrasses friends and family while making her regular readers alternately nod in agreement and snort coffee at their computer screens. Her book chapters have the same tone, making the pace of some of the longer chapters relentless, almost to the point of being manic. Yes, the book is intensely funny at times. Emphasis on the "intense." I sometimes needed to put it down just to give my brain a break.

Other chapters that would have been mildly amusing as blog posts (a series of increasingly ridiculous notes to her husband about a pizza box left out, for example), fell flat for me as a book chapter.  No problem--I just skipped over them, same as I would with a blog post that didn't strike me. Most of us expect to do this with blogs (and newspapers, magazines, pretty much any website), but with a book, skipping a chapter feels like cheating.
Friend: "Did you read Let's Pretend This Never Happened?"
Ali: "Yes! Well, all but that one chapter with the pizza box notes. And, actually...I kind of misplaced it toward the end, so I'm not sure I actually finished it. But, I did read most of it. Pretty much.
Now, imagine a conversation that goes:
Friend: "Do you read Confessions of a Pioneer Woman?"
Ali: "Yes! Well, to be honest, I only skimmed her last photo contest, and I don't exactly read the recipes, step by step. Oh, and there was one post last week about bottle feeding cows that I got distracted in the middle of and forgot to finish. But I do read most of it. Pretty much."
No, the conversation is more likely to go like this:
Friend: "Do you read Confessions of a Pioneer Woman?"
Ali: Yes! I love her.
Friend: Did you read the article about bottle feeding calves?
Ali: Um...maybe. I don't remember. When's it from?
Friend: Last week, I think.
Ali: Oh, I might have skipped it. I've been really busy.
Friend: You should read it, it's adorable.
(And by the way, I have these exact same conversations with people who read my blog, and it doesn't hurt my feelings in the least. This is how we manage online reading. No apologies necessary.)

I would prefer that a book didn't read like a blog, but this one does. And it's selling incredibly well--Lawson's fans adore her and so word of mouth is working its magic. As a blog-in-a-book, it's a good read. I just wonder if permeating the world of books with blog writing is a good thing.


  1. I'm still debating whether I want to read this one. One of my other blogging friends absolutely adores Lawson and has said a lot of good things about this book. I don't know if I'd enjoy the blog-style or not. Guess I might have to pick it up someday and give it a try. Thanks for the review. :)

    Have a happy Monday!

  2. I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to reading this book or not. So many people seems to absolutely love it. But I really enjoyed your thoughts on it...different way of looking at it than I've seen.

  3. I don't think I've read any books yet that started out blogs but I have read a few books this past year that started out as columns. That's similar, isn't it? The ability of these books to hold my interest depended on how many entries I liked. My favorite of them was Creature Features by Tim Rowland.

    1. @Allison: Yes, very similar. And now I have another book I need to read. Thank you! (No, really).

  4. I've read Julie & Julia and thought it hilarious! But not sure about this one. I also have a blogger friend who is busy-bizzy writing books and plays based on her blog but I have yet to read but one thing I didn't like it near as much as I loved her blog (which she no longer keeps up.)

    1. Julie and Julia worked for me. Except for the maggots part, but I will forgive her that.

  5. You are exactly right about this book being intense. And yes, that intensity works on a blog (especially when posts are spaced out over time). But back to back they get hard. I laughed a lot with this book, but also got a little exhausted with her sense of humor and style after awhile. Good review and discussion!