Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Bloggers: My Response

You probably have not even read the offending article, but I'm sure you can guess why it interested me! I don't have much time to pen this - so it'll only be short, and not as well written as I would like, but let me know your thoughts on the topic in the comments - I'm really interested to know what you think!
The chair of this year's Man Booker prize judges has warned that blogging is drowning out serious criticism, to the detriment of literature. 
A book blog is no different from a book review read in various magazines and newspapers all over the world.  There is nothing to say that the people writing those reviews are any more entitled to have an opinion on a book than a blogger is.  Largely magazines in particular gear books reviewed towards their readership - you won't find a review of Salman Rushdie in Cosmopolitan.  The larger the publishing house - the more money it has to spend on advertising - the more copies it can give away to newspapers and bloggers alike.

As a book blogger I pride myself on selecting works not only from major publishing houses but also from newly developing (and often self-financed and self-published) authors and independent publishing houses.  Something which I feel big awards with big prizes attached often overlook - why else was everyone shocked and horrified that nothing published by Penguin had been selected?  There is a snobbery attached to books - only the good ones are picked by the big publishing houses, which in my opinion, is just simply not the case.

Literary criticism needs "to identify the good and the lasting, and to explain why it's good. You don't read a literary critic to explain why a new Ian Rankin is any good – the people who know about him don't need that explaining."

Actually, I disagree with you there as well.  You'll find that literary criticism is as much about analysing popular books as it is 'classics'.  It is commonplace for people to write dissertations about Harry Potter. We have turned from scoffing at difficult to read novels to scoffing at easy and enjoyable reads instead.  Who is to say that a novels literary worth is measured by the amount of re-reads necessary before you finally 'get the point'?

A 'classic' doesn't need to be hard to read.  Nor full of serious topics.  It can be light-hearted and silly, and blogged about. 

Maybe, Mr Stothard's problem is more that book bloggers are putting him and The Times' literary supplement out of a job!
In conclusion: book snobbery has to stop. 
the original article can be found here.
// bloglovin' :: goodreads


Hannah Alyse said...

That is ridiculous! I think the reason blogger reviews are so important is because we are almost always more likely to read/watch something based on a recommendation from a friend. Blogging makes everything feel personal and friendly. When a blogger you trust (a good example for me would be Casee Marie from Literary Inklings) reviews a book and says its good...I want to read it. I trust her because based on everything I've seen I like her. That's really important. Also I hate how the only books that seem to get reviewed (by the big ones) seem to be the basic bestsellers. Who cares? I love how you guys review all level and types of books. I

That's a lot sorry :) The point is, I think blogging might be one of the best things that happened to book reviews. I'm glad you wrote about this.

Anonymous said...

I know right? It's like the major newspapers will write reviews on releases from *major* publishing houses - and not all good books come from them! There are so many different levels of snobbery in his rant - he's essentially saying that only certain people can have a decent opinion about literature and what the masses like is garbage. Which, IMO, just isn't *always* the case. And we shouldn't dismiss what everyone likes - there's as much interest in studying *why* everyone likes it as there is in studying what makes a complex and difficult to read book a "masterpiece".

Thank you for your comment :)

Unpublishedlife said...

I heard about this article via another book blogger and I completely agree that it is a load of hog-wash ... I don't necessarily see book bloggers as critics, but as readers who are giving their honest opinion about books, like a virtual book club. We talk about books we are reading, say why we liked them, why we didn't etc. and people decide for themselves whether to read a book or not.

I do think that book bloggers are in a powerful position, because they reach so many people and have, one could argue, a wider influence on the every-day reader than a critic (I don't often read the literary supplements and I'm a writer!) But, I read a lot of blogs and they do inform what I read to a certain extent. If I see a book mentioned on a number of blogs, I'll read it.

So, yes, it sounds a bit like sour grapes to me. I do think, though that because of this influence book bloggers (like yourself) have a responsibility to readers to talk about (not only mainstream fiction) but slightly obscure, independent books too, that large publishing houses and self-important critics do not deem worthy enough of a mention.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Thanks for sharing!


Fay said...

Great post! And a very valid and strong opinion well represented. It is incredibly easy to pick out the bad parts of book blogs as it is a source of independent and honest reviews. Sadly not everyone likes honesty!

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