Books and bookman in blogs

There are many varied and stimulating paragraphs on a range of topics in this post by Michael Allen, the Grumpy Old Bookman. Here’s a taster:

Bloggers are firmly put in their place by… no. no. Must resist the temptation to say what I really think about this woman, especially after yesterday’s piece on libel. But one Sheila Kohler says this:

Occasionally someone may mention my books in a blog. I believe the dangers of this indiscriminate reporting on books is that people who have no knowledge of literature can air their views as though they were of value and may influence readers.

(Link from Galleycat.) God forbid, of course, that anyone should ever believe any of the crap that people put on blogs. This brilliant piece of analysis comes, by the way, from a woman who has just hired a publicist, who is, naturally, contacting lots of blogs….

As I have frequently said, the first requirement for working in the book world is a sense of humour.

Michael Allen’s blog is, as I am sure many would agree, as close to perfection as it is possible to get for a commenter on the book publishing and writing scene. I tend not to highlight his posts very often for two main reasons: first, because everyone else does (we all think he is great); and second, because his posts, like the one linked above, tend to be so long and varied, covering a vast range of topics, that one cannot provide a link as shorthand for a particular take on a subject, as one can do for so many other blogs. This habit has become more common since Michael had his "I’m not going to be blogging very often from now on" moment a month or two back. Irrespective of this tendency to write one long kaleidoscopic, wide-ranging post, I am very glad Michael does continue to blog , as I always enjoy reading his highly individual point of view.

4 thoughts on “Books and bookman in blogs

  1. I don’t know about US bloggers, but it has recently come to my attention that in the UK, bloggers would prefer to say nothing, if they can’t be positive about a book/novel.
    And in my own trawling of the blogosphere, I’ve come across many US sites which I would describe as having the same approach. I’ve not read anything that completely slates a book, as far as I can remember.
    I think that many still don’t understand blogs. Therein lies the problem – it’s “blogs”, all of them, all swept with the same well-used nasty bacterial brush. But those of us who use the available software, know this is not the case.
    It’s used for a myriad of reasons with some blogs entirely personal; some are for fun only (the readers’ appreciation of that is subject to taste); some are political(some of which in the UK are extremely successful in this arena and even break the news); some are eclectic in their posts; some are focused on one or more topics; some are sex dossiers (sometimes leading into the print world – but that’s one for Danuta Kean to consider, as she has already).
    All of the above examples I mention have good and bad takes.
    When it comes to book discussions and book reviews, all of those blogs I’ve read, viewed, trawled on times, have one thing in common – the blog author has an undeniable love of books and a passion for reading. Perhaps that is why they like to share their thoughts.
    Anyone aware of the potential for world-wide exposure with a blog post and the potential for spam and trolls is not about to make a post lightly.
    All I’d say is that if a reader of a blog is concerned about comments made, on their novel perhaps, read more of the blog to get a feel for that blog’s author. Negative after negative after negative suggests where the author is coming from (a cave of viciousness and personal insecurity, no doubt). One negative in quite a few positives? The author aims to be objective. All positive? It’s the nice approach and anything not well read doesn’t make the grade.
    And why think that all blog authors are vermin in disguise? They are not. Anyone who thinks that, or simply draws that wide brush, deserves to find more time to trawl the net further and get the bigger picture. Until they get a real and good feel, which comes from comprehensive reading, they are as anally retentive as those they accuse (in ignorance).
    Personally, I’m sick of this blog fodder ignorant accusational argument. Yes, some blogs seek to make trouble, but many more seek otherwise. There are many types of bed covers. There are many types of blogs. Not all blogs are sewn by inexperienced hands with loose stitches on poor quality cloth and the stuffing dripping out at the ends.
    Isn’t it about time that “sweeping the brush” of generality was replaced by some serious discernment when it comes to taste and comment? But ah, this requires some research on the criticiser’s part. Well, it’s up to them to find the time. Until you have a well researched argument for blog parrying, I suggest you stay schtum.

  2. Thanks for your long, thoughtful comment, CFR. I am intrigued by your first point: perhaps you are referring to the fact that bloggers who are also authors and reviewers can all regularly visit each other’s blogs, and hence when one of them writes a book, the others don’t want to be rude about it? I’ve certainly read some negative reviews of books on UK blogs, so it isn’t a universal practice.
    I totally agree that one cannot generalise about blogs just as you can’t generalise about people or books. Anyone who does so is setting up a straw man, and probably is not familiar with blogs as a topic. As you say, there are lots of intelligent, literate and thoughtful bloggers.
    Unfortunately there are lots of bloggers who aren’t like that, and the lack of the editor on a blog does mean that many can be shallow, unpleasant and worse.
    Blogging is a conversation, book reviews in newspapers and magazines are broadcasts. Each medium has its advantages and disadvantages.
    The libel laws in the print media are fairly well established: we are only beginning in the online medium, as Michael Allen points out in this post and, in more detail, in previous. That’s a whole other aspect to the blogs/books issue — the law.

  3. Yes, I love Grumpy Old Bookman’s Blog too – when I get round to going there. He’s a witty and profound writer very often, I think.
    ‘..people who have no knowledge of literature can air their views as though they were of value and may influence readers..’
    In my experience most blog reviewers give an honest opinion, don’t usually know the author in question, are not there to promote themselves through writing and have actually read the book in question carefully and thoughtfully.
    I value most of them – and they influence my reading enormously. I don’t mind if they have a limited knowledge of literature, in fact I think that may sometimes be of benefit, but I can tell from the way that they write if they are intelligent and are likely to have a similar taste to me.

  4. Clare, I think you have put your finger on one of the advantages of bloggers as book reviewers (or other special interest). Blogging enables the niche interest very easily, via search/tagging. You can find and subscribe to the blogs of those other half dozen (or whatever) people in the world who think like/read the same books as you. Even if the bloggers may not write as “well” as mainstream journalists, or don’t know the literature as well, the fact that they are providing you with information about books (or other topics) that are right up your particular street is a wonderful thing.
    On my own reading interest, crime fiction, I’ve discovered books I’ve loved via Euro Crime, Detec. B. B., Int Crime Fiction, It’s a Crime!, Aust Crime and a few others. I’ve discovered a few books via newspaper book reviews over the same period, but not as many that are as compelling to me as I have done via these blogs, and I’m very grateful.

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