The Critics’ War on Bloggers

Dissing Allies: The Critics’ War on Bloggers – Britannica Blog.

At the Britannica Blog link above, Frank Wilson writes about the recent book reviewer "controversy", providing links to the main positions, which are on the one hand that the reduction in the number of stand-alone book-review sections in the mainstream newspapers is no bad thing, because bloggers are filling the gap; and on the other that bloggers are an undisciplined rabble who can’t string together a couple of coherent sentences without ranting, who don’t research their arguments.

Well, there is something to be said for both views ;-)

Frank in his piece focuses on the pros and cons of standalone book-review sections in newspapers. He is better placed than anyone else I know to comment, as he is a superb, long-established book-review editor (of the Philadelphia Inquirer) and well-known blogger (of Books, Inq.)

I won’t, therefore, summarise Frank’s points, becuase he puts them better than I could, so you can read them yourself.  But my twopennorth on the general question raised, rather than the aspect Frank highlights, is that;

  • Book review sections in newspapers are nice for readers. You can learn a lot without having to read all the books you would never have time to read, or think to read, with very little effort.
  • Book review sections in newspapers are limited in space and in resources (good reviewers and good editors). The blogosphere fills a need, in reviewing niche, specialist, small-press and other books that don’t get covered in the newspapers.
  • Book reviews on blogs are usually not as well written, researched or edited as they are in an edited publication, but sometimes they are.
  • Book reviews on blogs are freely accessible to all and can be searched for using keywords, so it is very easy to find reviews of books in your own area of specialist interest.
  • Blogging is a conversation. Although newspapers are increasingly opening up their content for comments, so far the blogosphere is the place for free and frank discussion, and of fast, efficient recommendations to fellow bloggers for good books to read (for example, as we do in our little crime fiction community of readers, bloggers and reviewers).
  • Bloggers tend to review a book that they have read recently and liked. The book doesn’t have to be newly published or commercial. Newspaper book review sections are, in effect, part of the publishers’ marketing of new products. Neither is bad (unless the reviewer hasn’t actually read the book being reviewed).

I will end with a thoughtful and striking quote from a blog post by Glenn of International Noir Fiction:

There was recently a comment about blogging quoted by Richard Schickel in the L.A. Times, in his article about blogging versus criticism. He quotes D.J. Waldie as saying that blogging is a form of speech, not of writing. I agree with that comment, based on reading lots of blogs and "writing" this one. Others may disagree–what do you think? The distinction doesn’t have to be seen as a criticism of blog-criticism: but a blog doesn’t go through an editorial process, isn’t solicited by a publisher, and is usually more immediate for those and other reasons. So what we get (or give) in a blog is a discussion, a conversation, rather than formal writing (no matter how immediate a good writer can be in that form). And in fact that’s what I find attractive about the better blogs–they’re a way to talk about something, with a circle of people who might be interested in the same topic, however geographically dispersed they may be. The blogosphere is like a huge bar, with multiple overlapping discussions, and with your own selection of beverage rather than some bar owner’s offerings.

Print is dead!

"Print is dead!". How often have I heard this assertion? I’ve just heard it again, confidently emerging from the mouth of Howard Ramis, on being asked if he likes reading books. I am sitting at my computer while the girls are watching a DVD: Ghostbusters. Date of release? 1984.

Well, print has staggered on quite happily in the intervening 23 years. I trust it will continue to do so.

Authors talking on video at Google

Authors@Google is advertised as a place where authors can share their ideas and talk about books, stories, research and more. Ryan Sands in the Google Librarian newsletter introduces a dedicated website for the collection of taped talks in Google Video. He writes that the site contains the full (and growing) set of videos from the authors who have visited Google offices in Mountain View and Santa Monica, CA, New York City, Ann Arbor MI, Kirkland WA, Boulder CO, London and Dublin. Since Ryan’s last update, Jonathan Lethem, Strobe Talbott, Bob & Lee Woodruff, Tom Bissell, Allan Brandt, Don Tapscott, Senator Hillary Clinton, Eve Ensler, Jeff Cohen, and Carly Fiorina and others have visited Google to share their thoughts and talk about their books. Ryan would be delighted to share these events with you, so do bookmark our page and visit often, he says.

The most recent addition was on 4 May, in which "author" John McCain visits Google’s Mountain View headquarters for a talk with Eric Schmidt (Google CEO). Here’s the link to the video (I watched only 30 seconds of the introduction so can’t offer an opinion on author or interviewer).

The index page of videos is here, but although you get to it via a click on the Authors@Google page, you seem to be returned all "Google talk" videos, not just authors:  sort yourselves out, Google. However, I did spot Cory Doctorow on the front page, added "6 days ago", among assorted celebrities, politicians, "women" (I kid you not), and yes, other genuine authors.

Underneath the bunker

Via email:

A year and a half online – and still at the summit of its game – the rarely-popular European Arts Journal Underneath the Bunker continues to gain readers at the same rate as ostrichs gain awards at science fairs held in Lucerne on the second Thursday of the fourth month in the year in which the moon never shines through the window of an old man in Glasgow. This is despite of the support of much-admired bloggers (Grumpy Old Bookman; That Girl) and its continuing habit of reviewing those books that other critics will simply persist in ignoring (Lucia Raus; Natalie de Roquet). Like true suffering artists, we take immense pleasure from this neglect. You are welcomed, nonetheless, to disappoint us with your interest. May the treacle of culture drip upon your faces.

The current "issue" and the journal’s manifesto can be read here.

Sorry, ladies, says Richard Morrison

Sorry, ladies. After 50,000 years you still don’t know us.

One post I didn’t get around to writing yesterday is this one (probably the only one that will see bloglight). I laughed aloud at Richard Morrison’s layered piece when I read it on the train to work yesterday morning (link above).

Andrew Davies, the man who peps up Jane Austen for the telly, has been explaining why he has inserted lots of groping and grinding into a forthcoming film version of Sense and Sensibility – or Sex and Sexibility as it may have to be retitled. The problem, Davies says, is that Austen had a faulty view of half the human race. “I don’t think she really understood men,” he claims.

Of course she didn’t. She was a woman! But as an 18th-century woman at least she accepted her limitations and focused her novels on the trials and triumphs of being an intelligent woman in a man’s world. The trouble with women today (apart from a lamentable tendency to lynch any man who starts a sentence with those five words) is that they believe their own psychobabble. They think that they finally have men nailed: that, after 50,000 years, the superior female mind has winkled out every foible and fantasy lurking in the murky recesses of what passes for the male brain.

Well, women may well have developed better minds. Odder things have happened. But I don’t think they are any closer to figuring what makes men tick. Don’t believe me? Well, here are ten common female assumptions about men, followed by the correct (ie, male) readings of the situation:

Then follow his ten hilarious examples, which so wittily send up the politically correct genre. Richard Morrison understands women, and indeed men, pretty well, I’d say.