Thursday, June 14, 2007

Review vs. Blog -- the debate continues...

Courtesy of Moonrat, I read the following article on reviews vs. blogs. I have a lot to say to this article, but I'll try to keep it short, considering my past long diatribes.

I don't really take offense to the fact that this reporter did a teensy-weensy bashing of book blogs and the bloggers themselves. Hey, I accept that. If I wanted to go into book reviewing, I'd probably dismally fail. As it is, I consider this a hobby. I won't be book snobbish enough to do this as a living and believe people should listen to me. I mean, seriously, I'm not even reviewing. I'm just ruminating. I don't have the time to dig deep the way real reviewers do.

However, I do think there's certain realities here. Blogs are big. Web is big. Book reviews... not so much. I'm not undermining the value of a book review - I enjoy reading smart, thoughtful reviews of books I'm really into. I love interviews with authors. I love learning about the books I love from people who really know books. It makes me smarter. But I'm not everyone. I'm a booknerd. I'm someone who actually cares that much. But your Joe Schmoe (or Jane Schmoe as it may be) probably doesn't. He probably just wants to know what book he should pick up for his next train ride.

"In fact, despite what the bloggers themselves believe, the future of literary culture does not lie with blogs — or at least, it shouldn't. The blog form, that miscellany of observations, opinions, and links, is not well-suited to writing about literature... Literary criticism is only worth having if it at least strives to be literary in its own right, with a scope, complexity, and authority that no blogger I know even wants to achieve. The only useful part of most book blogs, in fact, are the links to long-form essays and articles by professional writers, usually from print journals."

Most people I know don't pick up book reviews for "literary" literary criticism. Most people I know want to know - is this good? Should I read it? Will I like it? Is it for me? Who cares about scope and complexity? I mean, I do, but does the majority of people? I don't believe so. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Francine Prose's comment about a book review not being the FDA Advisory Panel cracked me up though. Too true, too true. As someone in the pharmaceutical industry, I know this kind of scrutiny too well. That is exactly a big problem of reviews I think. It's not appealing to the reader. It's trying to accomplish something too high and lofty, to a point where people in the know might appreciate, but it does nothing for readers. Reviews should be for the readers.

From all these posts, you might think I'm anti-book-reviews. I'm not. Just because I don't read them to choose my books, doesn't mean that I'm against them. I recognize their importance, and actually, the fact that they're getting cut from papers makes me very sad, because to me, it symbolizes the path that literature is taking in our culture. The loss of importance. I'm a book lover, so I can't hate on reviews - they add something to my experience when I'm through. They bring something to the debate. They raise the stakes for me. They help me understand something better. Nonetheless, I recognize that as a matter of marketing, reviews are no longer an effective tool. And I think that's where this distinction lies. It all comes down to money, folks. We don't do for the sake of the aesthetic and art anymore. And when it comes to $$$, reviews are on their way out. Blogs bring books to the masses, and we look at reviewers as those old dodgy aunts who don't really understand us anyway.

[Okay, so that wasn't that short.]

2 drops:

moonrat said...

yeah. one toot for book blogs--i can't even believe how my name is suddenly pasted all over the internet on blogs because of books i acquired. special interest blogs are posting all my stats and news about when what i'm editing is coming out. it's modest celebrity, i know, but it's still kind of cool. and it makes the guilty pleasure of the self google search all the more rewarding.

angelle said...

ooh!! really? i'm going to have to google your name now. that is very cool!!!

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