The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, August 14, 2006

Obsessives: Unite!

by Tamara Lee

The past couple of weeks have been plugged full of work (the paying kind), summer fun (the out of the house kind) and surfing the ‘net (the procrastination kind). And planning, planning, planning.

Been squirreling my options, planning for the winter, though it’s disheartening to spend so much time during these last few weeks of a great summer on something as dreary as a cold, wet BC winter. But, like end-of-summer fall clothes and notebook-and-pen shopping, it’s necessary to prepare yourself, lest you get caught up in the winter yucks, with a heavy case the winter SAD, unable to find comfort again until May.

Among my plans and link-hoarding are my new favourite getaway sites, the one-click routes to solace and comfort and, well, possibilities.

Getaway from here

There’s been a lot of talk ‘round my circle of pals, bullshitting really, about a fantastic voyage I want to take. It’s BS because I just don’t have the money for the big long-term travel event I initially imagined. Now, I dream and scheme and keep it to myself (because sometimes we can talk the good hoodoo right out of thing). Two links that have been facilitating this addiction to an idea are couchsurfing.com and realtravel.com.

RealTravel is a site where travellers get busy describing their adventures and dispensing advice. It’s full of blogs and suggestions to mine by plugging in your interests on a checklist that calls up a wide variety of travellers’ blogs. Since it is also a forum for family members to keep up with their crazy sister Kate getting found in India or eccentric great-uncle Allan who has gone coastal, there is a sort of homey feel to the site. As a writer, this is useful for getting the perspectives of a range of personalities, whether it’s someone excited about her first trip to Mexico, or the retired couple describing their trip around the world together. As a dreamy traveller, it helps get the saliva going.

Couchsurfing.com, on the other hand is simpler, and yet more ambitious. It’s a site that connects travellers willing to let other travellers sleep on the couch for a night or two, as they pass through town. It’s a full community of folks, headquartered in Montreal, but reaching out to all corners of the world. The site is home to the travel-obsessed and, generally though not exclusively, 20- and 30-somethings who have a taste for less structured travelling. The community, though, is rather familiar and friendly, with meet-ups scheduled frequently in different parts of the world. Plus, it’s a good place to get some hilarious tales, and insight into the off-the-beaten track of the world.

Getaway to there

My newest obsession though, is about the worlds I have right here at home and is facilitated by a site called LibraryThing. If you’re a bibliophile and you haven’t yet explored this site, beware. It’s like going into a thousand peoples’ homes and perusing their bookshelves. And if you're like me, that provides hours of entertainment.

What I love most about this site is how I can plug in the books I’m reading, or those in my collection that I feel define what I want to be reading, and find others who have read similar books. Once I see what’s on their shelves, or hit the ‘Psst’ button, the suggestions are endless, and I will never again have to seek out recommendations from friends who don’t ‘get me’.

But there is much more to LibraryThing than suggestions. While I don't possess the patience to actually put my whole library up online, that is the goal of many on the site, and it’s fascinating to discover that, of the thousands of people on the site, only a handful have some of my favourite books of all time. Who are these people, and how are we the same or different? How did we come by these books?

Then comes the next great thing about LibraryThing. I can contact the people who have these books (or books I like). So far, I’ve found two collections impress me and have them on 'watch' feature. Not all that surprisingly, one is a writer whose work I admire.

You’ll also find reviews; chat boards; and subject-specific groups to help you while away hours probably better spent writing. Yet, I’ve noticed there are a lot of writers on the site, some anonymously, which has also given me some sleuthing-pleasure, as I try to figure out just who it could be.

Finally, Librarything is worth mentioning for the very first thing that initiallly set it apart for me: the sign up is a snap, and made me instantly peeved at all the other sites that force me to give information I’d rather not. You simply put in a name and a password and away you go (just make sure you remember it; there’s no email welcome or any other brouhaha). Also, there are no ads clogging up the site, like on Amazon or even, to a lesser extent, the Powell’s site.

This latest round of procrastination has uncovered sites that have informed a new perspective, in a way. I know now that I am nearly incapable of choosing a travel destination; that I have an extraordinary amount of Angela Carter novels on my shelves; and that I really do spend too much time online.

But winter’s coming. There’s always winter.

(Remember, the CWC is sponsoring a new contest: check it out here.)

6 Comments:

Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Cool. I'll have to check out the library site. Thanks for the links!

Mon Aug 14, 07:30:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Mon Aug 14, 07:30:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

I love the sounds of the Library site, and god, yes winter, I can't think about it, enjoy the rest of the summer while it's here Tamara, great post...xo

Mon Aug 14, 09:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

LibraryThing is both fascinating and frightening. An Amazon invention,I presume, to sell more books based on more intimate knowledge of the consumer. Thanks for this post, Tamara. Thanks for sharing your research and experience.

Tue Aug 15, 07:34:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Tricia, I don't think it has anything directly to do with Amazon. And it's possible to avoid Amazon entirely; there's a Library of Congress link option, as well as 45 other libraries. I don't use Amazon links on it much (former bookseller that I am...) LT was started by a computer programmer. The history is explained better on the site. But LT is not without its controversy either. For more you can check out this article:
http://www.aptstudio.com/timesemit/2006/06/27/wall-street-journal-on-librarything/

In truth, I didn't have time to research much more about the site, just enough to tell people what I've found.

Wed Aug 16, 02:08:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Tamara, I just checked out Real Travel and love it. Great site! Thanks. As for Library Thing, I'll look into it further but I'm always suspicious (paranoic?) when a site encourages me to provide a lot of personal information. Considering what's going on in the States, I can forsee the day when you're arrested for reading the wrong books.

Thu Aug 17, 11:59:00 pm GMT-4  

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