I’m SO, SO sorry for linking to and commenting on this article about how much book blogs suck, but I simply can’t help myself. I’ve wanted to stop posting about these attacks on blogs because it gets boring after awhile, not to mention disheartening and repetitive. But then someone says something so utterly annoying I can’t keep quiet.
So, I’ll keep this short. The author of the article, Richard Schickel, starts off by quoting from a New York Times article that discusses shrinking space for book reviews and the possibility that book bloggers will pick up some of the slack; here’s Schickel’s claim:
“Some publishers and literary bloggers,” the article said, viewed this development contentedly, “as an inevitable transition toward a new, more democratic literary landscape where anyone can comment on books.”
Anyone? Did I read that right?
Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity.
I find it interesting the way Schickel moves seamlessly from the quotation that talks about commenting on books to a defense of reviewing and criticism. He’s assuming that all book bloggers attempt to produce professional reviews or criticism, which isn’t at all the case. What makes Schickel slip from commenting to reviewing all at once, thereby eliding a whole range of possible ways of writing about books? Why do people assume that if you write about books, your only purpose can be to become a professional reviewer?
Of course, there’s no reason a blogger can’t produce reviews or criticism that’s just as good as anything that appears in print (and on this issue you simply must see Dan Green’s wonderful response).
What’s wonderful to me about blogs is the range of writing you can find — everything from formal reviews and criticism, to informal commentary, to highly personal reading responses, to news of the book world and gossip about writers. Why do people who attack blogs assume that all bloggers are aiming at one thing — to produce writing that will “threaten” what appears in print?
Okay, I’m done. Now for an announcement: I’ll be gone for a few days on a work-related retreat (which probably sounds dreadful, although I don’t think it will be). I’ll be back on Friday or thereabouts.