I’d blogged about it before and, it appears to have happened again. Another broadside at book bloggers. This time it comes from the Los Angeles Review of Books and before you click the link, a warning: it’s nasty, mean-spirited hatchet job or what I like to refer as “a drive-by smear”.
There’s a hell of a lot of disgusting stuff said about book bloggers in William Giraldi’s review of Bill Henderson’s Rotten Reviews Redux: A Literary Companion, but what I find ironic is, gasp, the piece is a blog post. A really. Really. Long. Blog post.
At any rate, I needn’t go into the details of what kinds of things are said about bloggers, instead; I’m wondering if authors like Henderson have been living in a cave for the past fifteen years. Blogs started appearing in the late 1990’s and book blogs were among the first. Here we are at the end of 2012 and people are just starting to notice?
Look, I don’t know why 2012 seems to be the year the literary establishment decided it would be a good idea to start slamming bloggers for the quality of their literary criticism, but it’s started and I don’t expect it to end any time soon. I have a couple of theories why literary critics have chosen to attack bloggers and chief among them is social networking. There is a massive social component to book blogging with tools that one can add to their blog to connect with readers and other bloggers to the monstrously successful web presence that is Goodreads. The entire point of Goodreads is to socialize with books being the central focus.
And guess what? At a period of time when publishing itself is undergoing a massive transformation the likes of which haven’t been seen since the printing press was invented, I guess it makes sense for the old school literary establishment to rail against change. Change is scary. Change is unpredictable. And change in publishing is necessary – I think everyone I know who works for a publisher or who might be an agent recognizes that need for change.
But … why single out bloggers? See, that’s what I’m not getting here. Given that book stores are closing all over the place as the market shifts from brick and mortar stores to buying online, why in the world would anyone wish to snipe at the very people who have the capacity to drive sales of books? Giraldi writes,
“our present climate of criticism — a climate in which the Net has spawned a cacophony of gabble impersonating literary comment, palaver and vulgate enough to warp you.”
So it’s the quality of the commentary from bloggers that’s being questioned? Because someone who loves books had the audacity to create a book blog and review something they are passionate about?
Again, um, wow.
I need bloggers to review my books and spread the word because I have no other means by which to do so. I write urban fantasy – Canadian urban fantasy. I’ve tried like mad to get Canadian newspapers to review my books and do you know how many have appeared in print? None. Not one. (I have a file on a flash drive with more than forty emails I sent to newspapers offering a copy of one of my books in exchange for an honest review and do you know how many emailed back? Zero.)
Whereas my novel POLTERGEEKS has received 97 reviews on Goodreads – a site whose membership is somewhere around ten million. I need people to hear about my books and for that I need bloggers, it’s as simple as that.
As for the quality of literary criticism, the last time I looked there weren’t any programs in the Faculty of Fine Arts at my local university that offered course in literary criticism. I’ve often wondered how one becomes a literary critic in the same way I’ve wondered how one becomes a restaurant critic. And by the way, at least the restaurant critics aren’t railing against the emergence of restaurant review blogs and review sites.
Alas, I fear we’re going to be exposed to more vitriol as the old guard fades away, and that’s what Giraldi’s piece is – a last faint flicker before the dust settles on critique from an age when the term “social media” hadn’t yet been conceived.
Hang in there bloggers and … you know, don’t take it personally. They don’t get it – but you do.