George Salis: How did you end up becoming a BookTuber?
Noah Clemons: Thanks for this interview, first of all, George. I have had a lifelong passion for language and reading. There’s a close friend of mine named Josh, (who always gives good advice, by the way) and I talk books and authors a lot with him; we read books together and such. I found a few BookTubers that I enjoyed and was expressing that by sharing a video or two with him, and he suggested I start my own channel. I am very extroverted and require only to get an idea for a project in my head to go for it. The beginning of this year I made my first video—a survey of my favorite authors.
GS: The name of your channel, Everyone who reads it must Converse, is a play on Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge. What do you love about her work and that story in particular?
NC: A question after my own heart! There are many aspects of O’Connor’s writing I love. Two aspects I particularly resonate with are her southern voice and subversion of expectations. A Georgia-boy myself, in her word choice and sentence structure I hear a friend or family member speaking plainly. One of my favorite examples is the opening scene of her short story “Temple of the Holy Ghost”. Funny and endearing, the characters could be neighbors. It is beautiful to me.
She is well-known for her ironic twists in both the short story and novel form. Powerful, shocking, thought-provoking are all apt descriptions in these instances. Her stories work on multiple levels—literal and symbolic, material and spiritual, and the twists add a great depth.
I did a video on my channel at the beginning of August (celebrating Flannery O’Connor’s life on the anniversary of her passing) where I explore Everything that Rises Must Converge. The story is an exploration of integration in the South from the perspective of a mother and son riding the evening bus to a workout session. Through a few very powerful interactions there is deep conflict that builds to a climax that both shocks and gives a frame for the entire story.
GS: You’ve told me you prefer not to edit your videos so that they’re more real, as it were. Can you talk a bit about this and do you think that other popular BookTube videos are too polished and plastic?
NC: Sure, when I began, I didn’t know much about what I ultimately wanted to do with my channel. Two things were clear, I wanted to share books and authors I love and turn others on to works that they may love as well. I myself like videos that are more conversational. Much of the positive feedback I have received speak to this aspect of my style—as if I am sharing something I am passionate about with a friend.
As far as videos by others, I do not want to be overly critical because there is a beautiful thing about YouTube—my channel, my rules. That being said, I think there is a tendency when getting into the production aspect of content creation to emulate and conform. This ranges from cuts and how they are executed to the personality and energy level of the person. I want to bypass all these concerns. Being popular is not what my channel is all about. Rather, sharing an aspect of my life that I feel has widened my perspective and brought me much enjoyment. Other Tubers have their own motivations and that’s all good.
GS: It is often claimed and complained about that one doesn’t have time to read, that it’s a ‘leisure activity’ for the bourgeoisie, yet you’re a blue-collar worker who reads literature voraciously and seriously, and I suspect you’re far from the only one. What are your thoughts on this?
NC: First off, there are plenty evenings where I have little to no time for reading because of responsibilities or simply being too tired from the day. One may legitimately not have time to read and I understand that with my demanding job and large family.
However, many profess a desire to read and “not having time” is the go-to excuse. One major reason for this is habit. Habitual thinking (or, not thinking) and conduct. Many people waste time unconsciously scrolling through a feed on their pocket computers or zoning out by watching videos from a multitude of sources for hours at a time. The key here is not any specific activity but, the word ‘unconscious’. I would suggest a piece of paper in the evening where one lists what they have done by the hour. Much time is lost in unconscious modes.
Another point I’d like to make: it is a hard pill to swallow for some people that any gain is accompanied by a sacrifice. Along with doing something one doesn’t currently do daily, one must give up something one currently does! It is a fact and requires a conscious decision. I will give a personal example: when I began my channel I knew it would require that I read more consistently than ever before. I made the personal decision to give up other hobbies (chess, guitar, gaming), freeing the time up for reading more. This does not mean I never play chess or guitar, only that I do not allow those activities to take up hours of my time. My free time is then consciously used for reading.
GS: While many people will say that a writer has certain obligations toward the reader, I don’t often hear about the reader’s obligations toward a book. Are there any such obligations?
NC: I have heard these kinds of assertions and have been in some conversations, most of which I extricate myself as quickly as possible. Not because of the subject matter but because of the people!
I think there are as many different “obligations” toward the reader as there are genres. Entertain, challenge, comfort, educate, thrill, scare all come to mind. But, let us consider literary fiction. Writing as art form. Words and sentences are the ever-changing and augmented tools and the only real obligation of the writer is to truth. Small personal truth of a life, sure. A universal Truth of humanity, ideally. Whether the truth is big or small, beautiful or horrifying, life-affirming or heart-crushing, a good writer always conveys a truth, even when he/she lies.
So, if the writer’s obligation is to convey a truth, however limited or grand, what is the reader’s obligation? To seek out that truth before passing judgement on a work.
GS: You recently finished your first novel and are now rereading it with an eye for editing. Do you think being a BookTuber has helped you hone that eye?
NC: I truly didn’t know what I was getting into by entering the BookTube community. Reading books with other passionate readers and turning others on to books you love sounds great but I was very quickly covered up by focused reading challenges, watching others to support, and having my to-be-read list overflow! I have since gained my bearings and (a little) self-control. The thing I feel has helped me hone my eye for writing is reading. Reading widely and critically. My channel has certainly contributed to that. In our time, post-postmodern writing (whatever that means), there is still a place for genre writing of all kinds and it seems every rule of writing is there to be broken.
GS: What is a novel that deserves more readers?
NC: Do you mean besides the awesome Sea Above, Sun Below? Haha! I am not pandering by saying that, it was an awesome experience reading your debut novel and I feel it should be more widely read.
I am in awe of Rick Harsch’s the Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas. The narrative flows so well, ultimately as poetry. The way not just words but syllables are warm putty in his hands. It is amazing and so enjoyable to read. Beautiful in the way Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is. I will be giving my take on it in a video once I am finished.
GS: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a BookTuber?
NC: Really, just do it. What makes one worth watching is their passion and sincerity. It may take some time getting comfortable (I’m still not great) speaking to a camera. If it is something you want to do, you should go for it. And be yourself. We are all readers and lovers of books. There are as many different styles of BookTuber as there are readers and more are always welcome.
Noah Clemons is a writer and Booktuber with a passion for literature.
George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below (River Boat Books / corona/samizdat). His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Literary Magazine, House of Zolo, Three Crows Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Isacoustic, Atticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram (@george.salis), and at www.GeorgeSalis.com.