Earlier this week, the Chair of this year’s Man Booker prize judges, Peter Stothard, made headlines when he suggested that the overabundance of book bloggers today “is drowning out serious criticism, to the detriment of literature,” according to an article in the Guardian.
From the article:
“Although Peter Stothard, who is editor of the Times Literary Supplement, is a blogger himself – and praises literary websites such as the Complete Review – he expressed fears that the burgeoning amount of online opinion about books could be damaging to the future of writing.
“‘If the mass of unargued opinion chokes off literary critics … then literature will be the lesser for it,’ he said. “There is a great deal of opinion online, and it’s probably reasonable opinion, but there is much less reasoned opinion.”
Two book bloggers were quoted in the article as essentially disagreeing with Stothard. And the following day, a very well-reasoned and truly satisfying post by blogger John Self was added to the Guardian‘s Books Blog that took Stothard to task for his total wrongheadedness.
Self essentially made the point that because book review sections are being cut left and right by print outlets today, lit-crit and book review blogs are not only necessary—they’re also where much of the most relevant criticism is now being published, if only because bloggers have unlimited space in which to wax poetic about a given title’s high or low points.
I’m honestly not sure if anyone else has already pointed this out, but to me, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here, and it’s the same old story we’ve heard a million times during arguments concerning the arts: The older generation (Stothard) doesn’t understand the younger and newer generation, and so instead of being open-minded and making an attempt to learn, it lashes out in ridicule.
And I think there’s probably something else to consider here, as well: In 2012—in the very globalized and multicultured world in which we all live—do we really need one more middle-aged, middle-class white guy telling us what we should be reading, and why? I tend to think not. But then again, I’m essentially a middle-aged, middle-class white guy myself. So what do I know?
I’m curious to know what those of you who care about literary criticism—and about the current state of book reviews in general—think about all this. Are book blogs pointless? Are they harmful to literature, even? Or are they necessary and useful?
The answer, I suspect, lies somewhere in between those two points of view.