The book I am currently reading for review, Henry Hitchings's Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary contains a sentence that goes far to explain my absence from the blogopshere this past week:
[Johnson's] thoughts on the nature of writing convey the impression that he considered it something to set oneself to 'doggedly', to persevere at, to achieve 'by slow degrees'.
I would extend this to include literary and journalistic endeavor generally: Writing, editing, and research have their pleasures to be sure, but they also involve a lot of plain hard work, much of it singularly unexciting. I took the week before last off (and was able to do a good bit of blogging as a result). When I returned to work, though, I was faced with an office that had accumulated a week's load of books and galleys, which needed to be sorted and shelved. There was also a week's worth of email and snail mail. And there were, of course, reviews and articles to be edited and moved to the copy desk, meetings to attend, etc., etc.
Luckily, I had some help. Kevin McManmon, one of The Inquirer's dwindling number of editorial assistants, was assigned to lend a hand -- and that helped mightily. So by week's end everything was pretty much back in order. But it was a week of long days -- and I had some events to attend several nights as well. Finally, my home office needed some attention too, which it got yesterday.
In short, now that order has been restored, I can resume blogging.
I mention all this because, first, this blog is supposed to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it's like to be a newspaper book review editor and, second, it's useful to remember that writing, painting, sculpting, composing and the like are not always glamorous undertakings. They have more than their fair share of drudgery and success in them, however modest, comes from going at them with a will.