Maybe there was not so much a smackdown in this LA Times article on the recent brouhaha between traditional media and the litbloggers. It’s about the side argument that got started when the NBCC started a campaign to save the book review pages. Several critics made statements that made litbloggers seem like piddling book entertainment. The litbloggers got angry, understandably. This article seems to be trying to calm things down and make the book review editors feel like their sections still matter, while also validating the work of the litbloggers. I see us at somewhat of an impasse. The mainstream media claim that blogs lack true criticism, but where is the true criticism in the New York Times Book Review each week? Are reviews really criticism? I’m really asking the question here. What is it that the papers do that we don’t? My reviews are brief for the most part and probably fall short of being literary criticism, but is it better that I discuss books here that won’t get mentioned in the mainstream media? What do they want us to do?
Taking this English class has made me think about the importance of literary criticism more and more. Cynthia Ozick’s cranky essay ‘Literary Entrails‘ in April’s Harper’s about today’s lack of true literary critics also sparked some thoughts in my brain. Questions like ‘what does my site provide readers’ have been zinging around my brain ever since I read that essay. Am I providing anything of value? I don’t consider myself a “critic”. I am a professional book buyer though and probably see more books each day than most people do in a month. Does that help? If I had an English degree would that lend more legitimacy to what I write on this blog? I’m mostly musing here, sharing some of the thoughts I’ve been having recently. I liked Callie’s response to the article as well. She offers that the litblogs can do things that the newspapers can’t, offer MP3s, podcasts, cover author readings, etc. All of these things are important and open up a broader dialogue about books, something truly important in this day.
Perhaps you’ll read this and wonder how I segued from the bloggers vs. mainstream media topic to the value of this particular site. All of this controversy has been making me think, that’s all, about my role in it, if any. So thanks for listening.