Monday, 4 October 2010

(No) More Tea For Me, Please

Or: How blogging does not (always) lend itself to dead tree trilogies.

After slogging through Down Among The Dead Men, Amazon recommendations page threw up a real pearl (and trust me, it doesn't do so very often - even after being their customer for almost a decade). Understandable, really, as the pearl also deals with medical profession, only this time it is one tiny step removed from the mortuary. Maybe not so obvious from the title, Blood, Sweat, And Tea deals with day to day experiences of the London Ambulance Service paramedic.

The book came about after the success of the Random Acts Of Reality blog. It is an excellent, and gripping read, too. Unfortunately, it received much less publicity than Belle De Jour - but then, sex is always easier to shift than pain, sickness, and death. I also doubt that Blood, Sweat, And Tea will ever make it into a TV series (not that it was any good, mind you). Fortunately, it was (much) more than a fizzle in the pan Sex At Oxbridge decidedly was (and still is - I just had a look).

So far so good.

Not a lot of reading time later (did I mention it was a gripping read?) I was looking at the Amazon recommendations page again. And, lo and behold, there was a sequel sitting there. I actually didn't mind the unimaginative title of More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea. Quite a mouthful, and as I said not very creative, but it was definitely in character. And it is the character of the first instalment that I liked (alongside all the other good stuff there, of course).


A minute later, the book was on my Kindle. Half an hour later, and I started to hear a faint fizzle. Quickly checking the kitchen (Kindle in tow, of course) I realised nothing was cooking (I was home alone at the time, after all). Going back to a more comfortable reading spot I continued looking for more of the three fluids from the title. Unsurprisingly, all three were there alright. Sadly - and unfortunately, and on reflection, not unsurprisingly either - all three have gone off, ever so slightly. The blood clotted a long time ago (at a guess, a few months after the first book was published), the seat had a bit of a staleness to it (from overexertion and rinse-repeat of both the job, and the book), and tea was really cold and weak (the latter very likely due to the tea bag having been reused one time too many).

Now, don't get me wrong. The second instalment is almost as good a read as the first one - even if one can detect ever so slight a strain showing at the seams. This is most likely due to two factors. First, I believe the author also felt that the sequel does not necessarily bring anything radically new to the table, and has tried his best to spice it up. He did a rather good job of it, but the effort shows, and that makes it ever so slightly annoying. Second, there is a visible effort to make the text more book-like, rather than having a raw pace and feel of the original - which was very obviously just ever so slightly edited copy of the blog itself. Which was a good thing. The thing that made the read so lively, gripping, and ultimately powerful.

So, while I do believe that the author deserves the increased income from a book deal (even if the Kindle edition of both books are free), I also think it serves to show how various written forms - and possibly blogging in particular - do not necessarily, or easily, translate into each other. You can no more turn a book into a (successful) blog by posting a chapter every now and then - as you run out of book sooner or later, and a blog wants to be a perpetual publishing outlet, than you can (most of the time) turn a successful blog into a book - especially not a series of books. It is one thing popping round a blog every now and then to check what's new (or not, as the case may be), and quite another to pick up a book with the same content and feel compelled (as you do with books) to read it all in one sitting. And when the blog deals with a subject that is - by its very nature - rather repetitive, publishing book after book of essentially the same stuff surely isn't a very clever (or successful) thing to do.

Not to mention that it is quite difficult to keep even a blog on a single subject interesting for a very long time. You just need to pop over to the three I mention here (and elsewhere on this blog) and see for yourself. Oh, and I am also painfully aware that it is quite literally impossible to keep a hodge-podge blog like the one you're reading interesting in the first place. Which is not to say that: a) I will not continue writing it (I do it for me, after all), and b)I will not continue having (strong), and expressing, opinions - and advice - about others. Since they more likely than not do not read this I might as well. If they do, so much the better - for them.

In the meantime, I'll somehow manage to wade through the remainder of the More Tea, but next time I think I may think twice before picking up a sequel to a blog-cum-book. There's too much to read, and so little time to read it in already that I need to start economising. Or learn speed reading... Or maybe not, as I think this quote from Woody Allen is quite telling:
I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
'Nuff said...