Tuesday, June 12, 2007

bloggers represent a dead end

So sayeth NY Sun book critic Adam Kirsch. The article is called The Scorn of the Literary Blog (Thanks to galleycat for the link.)

What's sad is up until the blog stuff, Kirsch had some interesting things to say, examining book reviews, what they are, what they aren't, why people read them, what's going on with newspapers.

But then . . . well, here are some highlights:

"People who write about books on the Internet, and they are surprisingly numerous, do not call themselves reviewers, but bloggers." Call me anything just don't call me late for supper. As I've said before, blogs happen to be a way we publish online; don't confuse content with the format. This is one of the most silly things I've seen in a long time. Discuss amongst yourselves the truth of it; I think some bloggers (myself included) have danced away from the "r" word when when should embrace it. I REVIEW BOOKS. DEAL WITH IT.

"But book bloggers have also brought another, less salutary influence to bear on literary culture: a powerful resentment. Often isolated and inexperienced, usually longing to break into print themselves, bloggers — even the influential bloggers who are courted by publishers — tend to consider themselves disenfranchised." Isolated, inexperienced, longing to break into print, and disenfranchised. At least he didn't mention 18 cats in basement, right? For myself, I don't long to break into print; I long to make money so I'm not living in a cardboard box in 20 years. So, I look for ways to write and get paid, and, along with that, have things I want to talk about and do that here. But resentful of those who do write and get paid? No. Disenfranchised? No; rather I blog about books that are, frankly, the redheaded stepchild of newspapers and magazines; books that have not gotten the coverage and discussion they should and that readers, parents, teachers and librarians want.

"As a result, they are naturally ready to see ethical violations and conspiracies everywhere in the literary world. As anyone who reads literary blogs can attest, hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned. And the scorn is reciprocated: Professional writers usually assume that those who can, do, while those who can't, blog." Again, generalizations. And truly, in the kidlit world, we have been so free from the flamewars and trolls that go on other places, for which I am eternally grateful. If anything, it's the literary world who sees bloggers having ethical issues; and the "professionals" who have started this whole mess. I have yet to see a kidlit blogger bash a nonblog writer. (Link to it in the comments if you have!)

I don't want to cut and paste everything; but then Kirsch attacks the "blog form" as being incapable of creating a "literary review." It's like saying, oh, a graphic novel form is incapable of creating a Printz award book.

And the wonderful ending words: "But there's no chance that literary culture will thrive on the Internet until we recognize that the ethical and intellectual crotchets of the bloggers represent a dead end."

So, if I start posting in a different format, say a wiki, I can get lit review cred? I stop being a dead end when I learn how to code?

What great timing that Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray has started her Summer Blog Blast Tour. (Disclosure: I'll be blasting off with the blog tour myself, so more details to come!)

Edited to add:
Here is In For Questioning's take on the article. IFQ addresses some of the blog stuff, but also some of the assertions about what reviews are and aren't. Interesting stuff; because there are many reasons for reviewing books and for reading reviews. It's no one size fits all.


tanita✿davis said...

If I didn't consider myself disenfranchised or resentful before this... well, I still don't, one pesky little man can't change that, but I do consider myself in possession of a strong upper body and a good right cross.

Just sayin', you know. Apropos of nothing in particular...

tanita✿davis said...

(Nothing like a blogger scorned, after all.)

Suzanne said...

I'm sure the horse-and-carriage folk said about the same things regarding H. Ford.

Anonymous said...

Good one, Suzanne!

Kirsch says, "Already there are some web publications — like Contemporary Poetry Review (cprw.com), to which I occasionally contribute — that match anything in print for seriousness of purpose."

How convenient that he can single out an online publication--oh, and he just happens to write for it, too!

Anonymous said...

Jessamyn at librarian.net has an interesting post that is helping me understand where these print reviewers are coming from. I see it as a conflict between the amateurs and the experts. The Internet allows anyone who has an opinion to "publish" it. I think one of the side benefits is that it gives people who have trouble getting heard - librarians, kidlit fans, etc. - a voice. I think traditional reviewers feel like they are being replaced. But, as Jessamyn says, why can't we co-exist? Jessamyn's post is at:

Anonymous said...

Sheesh. I think I want to throw up.

I get so sick of experts. They think they have the only game going in town.


christine M said...

I listen when someone tells me their opinion of a book - and if they seem to like the kind of books I like, and they like a particular book - I'll check it out. I listen to friends and relatives - and I listen by way of reading what people on the internet think. I've found some great books for my kids by reading reviews of them online - books that I might not have noticed before.

And just why is someone who gets paid to do something more qualified than someone who doesn't? I mean, sure that works in a professional setting - you want a Doctor who has gone to med school not one who has just read a lot of books on the subject. But Reviews are opinions. And anyone is entitled to an opinion. The quality of the review comes through no matter the format.

And sure, I suppose there could be some poor reviews on blogs. I mean if someone wrote "That book s***ed because I don't like books about rabbits" well, you wouldn't give it much credence. But those aren't the kind of reviews I see every day in the kidslitosphere.

I think the professional reviewers are nervous that if people are getting lots of reviews from other places their employers will wonder if they're worth their pay.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, Liz. I don't particularly want to read it, and I certainly don't agree with it (as applied to the Kidlitosphere). But I suppose that it's important to know what critics are saying, so that we can hold ourselves to a higher standard. I don't consider myself disenfranchised. I consider that I'm providing a service, for the people who choose to use it (not forced on anyone, of course), by reviewing books that you might never hear about in the print newspapers. Does that sound defensive??

Little Willow said...


Tell Leila to make the shirt!!!

Bkbuds said...

I don't see how bloggers detract from book review sections. If that were true, why are all the big media outlets starting blogs? PW, the LA Times, now the NY Times. Maybe they just resent having to play on someone else's field. "Yeah, but we still own the ball!" Or something like that.