"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Is Serious Reviewing, Anyway?

Reviews on blogs are often just as "serious," not to mention written by the same people. Calendar Alive article.

Michael Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, wrote in the Washington Post. "The book review section … remains the forum where new titles are taken seriously as works of art and argument, and not merely as opportunities for shallow grandstanding and overblown ranting."

Lit-blogger Edward Champion fired back, ridiculing the notion that only printed book reviews matter: "It's okay for the lit blogosphere to exist as a version of your Mom's book club — it's okay for us to talk books and authors and compare notes on favorites, as long as we keep our place," snapped the San Francisco writer, who runs the Return of the Reluctant website. "Have you got that? We must not think for a minute that we contribute anything beyond serving as accessories to the real literary discussions…. We should buy books but not dare to offer well thought opinions on them."

The accusations flew back and forth. But now there is a growing sense that enough is enough — and that the friction between old and new book media obscures the fact that the two are in bed together now, for better or worse. Often the same people who churn out literary blogs are reviewing books for mainstream reviews.

Clearly, some mainstream reviewers are threatened by the competition. Well, that's what they get for giving all the reviewing spots to established writers and cronies. I've heard about great books on blogs, that were not reviewed in larger venues, and I'm all for new voices being heard, especially younger voices. The last two books I read that got raves in the mainstream press were total disappointments. I'll take my recommendations from blogs any day.


John Baker said...

Me too. The problem with most newspaper reviews is that they only concentrate on new books and somehow, unthinkingly, expect that they'll find something new and great every week or every month.
But most people know that if you want something great to read you're going to have to cast your net a little wider than last weeks publications.

Zen of Writing said...

Right, and a little narrower than one-size literature. I like a lot of books that just don't appeal to everyone, and, books that are supposed to appeal to everyone seem dull.