A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
When my friend Leena invited me to join a group of book lovers who reviewed what they read, I was thrilled and also a bit intimidated. Leena herself is an intelligent and humorous person who has no idea how brilliant she is. I only knew one other person in the group, Moira, but I tried to be brave about the others. My first post was about my favorite book, Oscar and Lucinda on the second day of the site’s existence. After years of reading the book reviews in my local paper and thinking I too, could be a book reviewer, at last I was one! It didn’t pay anything, but that’s Ok, I got to write about books and join in discussing those that others did. Win-win!
That was 10 years ago on Wednesday and I remain thrilled. In looking back, I realized that it wasn’t just the bookish aspect which affected me, but I also grew as a person. One of the things I’ve had trouble with over the years is members coming and going. Being upset at people leaving, either with an announcement or a gradual drift, is understandable. But I also had problems with new people who joined,though not in the usual way. In the early years, I took it all so seriously; VL was this lofty, literate website and even if we wrote about things in a funny way, it had to be on a certain intellectual level. So when Comrade Kirsty decided to write about the band Kiss, I was appalled. “What level are we going to sink to next?” I wondered. I kicked up such a fuss that Moira had to take me aside and privately warn me that my actions wouldn’t be tolerated. I gasped. Not only was I in danger of being kicked out of VL, but Moira was turning her Stern Schoolmarm laser beams on me. Trust me, that is a scary spot to be in. It took a lot of effort, but I managed to suppress my bad behavior. Now when I consider that whole situation, I’m embarrassed at how awful I had been.
VL has been one of my safe spaces online.It’s a true community. The Foxes encourage each other, celebrating new babies and grandbabies, career achievements and happy events. And we commiserate when one of us is sick or sad or upon the death of a pet or other loved one. I have been the recipient of great generosity from the Foxes, moved to tears of gratitude and humility in my astonishment. And I’m not the only one to receive such kindness, the Foxes have great hearts.
Though I had always dabbled in writing, I’m aware of my own limitations. I never had any aspirations to write a Great Novel and my life has been too boring for a memoir. And since some of my fellow Foxes are real authors, I’ve learned just how much work goes into writing a book, which is way more involved than most people, even devoted readers, realize. Thus, writing for VL is perfect for my limited range, though I am continually trying to improve technically. And I still use too many exclamation marks! The other Foxes are better writers than I, but that makes me appreciative of their styles, their humor and their insights. Their experiences are wider than mine and they often profile stories and authors that are new to me.
So VL has been a font of education, inspiration and most importantly, friendship. It’s gone beyond the website for me, which means I’ll treasure my participation till the end of my days.
Illustration of fox holding a book found on Pinterest.