By Casey Wilson
Given the sea of blogs out there, writers who wish to gain a following often have to cultivate good writing and a unique gimmick. Mark Does Stuff – the blanket heading for both Mark Reads and Mark Watches – does both.
On Mark Reads, Mark works through books a chapter at a time, posting reactions and thoughts to one chapter (or the equivalent) each day. Mark Watches does the same for television, only episode-by-episode rather than chapter-by-chapter.
The project’s slogan is “You are not prepared” – Mark specifically selects books and shows that he knows only the vaguest of things about in order to come to them all with fresh eyes. Spoilers are anathema to Mark Does Stuff. “Don’t spoil Mark” is the rule that must not be broken. This creates an endearing atmosphere, where commenters cipher their replies to avoid spoiling him as they discuss how they think he will react to the next big twist or reveal.
Many of the books and television shows he chooses are aimed at children, and the reason that I enjoy reading his writing is that he still treats them with respect. It also helps that Mark writes as much as a fan as he does a critic. And as much fun as it is to watch him tear apart Twilight, it’s even more fun to watch him fall in love with, say, The Hobbit. The profanity-laden entry that comes with his arrival at the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter of The Hobbit is a sheer delight, if you remember your own reaction to first reading Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum.
But it’s not just fanboyish glee that he brings to these texts. He calls them out on racism and sexism and ableism, relates them to his own life experiences, and generally thinks hard about them in a way that is wonderful to witness.
Mark has written about Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Looking for Alaska, and The Book Thief, in addition to the texts mentioned above. (And plenty of non-kid lit related ones.) If you’re looking for a way to kill an hour or a few days, I highly recommend checking them out.
Casey is a PhD student.