Sunday, May 20, 2007

Litbloggers Versus Book Reviewers

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The latest wrinkle in the ongoing battle between bloggers and print journalists, apparently, is litblogs versus traditional book reviewers:

When members of the National Book Critics Circle recently picketed the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — protesting the elimination of its book review editor — a war of words broke out between book reviewers and literary bloggers.

The quarrel, which got surprisingly nasty, spilled into newspapers, magazines and blogs, amid concerns over recent cutbacks at other big-city newspaper book reviews, including the Los Angeles Times. The boom in books-related blogging, it seemed, was a slap in the face to more seasoned literary voices as they watched their own outlets shrink.
"If you were an author, would you want your book reviewed in the Washington Post and the New York Review of Books, or on a web site written by someone who uses the moniker NovelGobbler or Biogafriend?" Michael Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, wrote in the Washington Post. "The book review section … remains the forum where new titles are taken seriously as works of art and argument, and not merely as opportunities for shallow grandstanding and overblown ranting."

Lit-blogger Edward Champion fired back, ridiculing the notion that only printed book reviews matter: "It's okay for the lit blogosphere to exist as a version of your Mom's book club — it's okay for us to talk books and authors and compare notes on favorites, as long as we keep our place," snapped the San Francisco writer, who runs the Return of the Reluctant website. "Have you got that? We must not think for a minute that we contribute anything beyond serving as accessories to the real literary discussions…. We should buy books but not dare to offer well thought opinions on them."

The accusations flew back and forth. But now there is a growing sense that enough is enough — and that the friction between old and new book media obscures the fact that the two are in bed together now, for better or worse. Often the same people who churn out literary blogs are reviewing books for mainstream reviews. (Champion, for example, has a review appearing in this week's Los Angeles Times Book Review.)

Many believe there's a healthy synergy between the two. Maud Newton, who runs one of the more respected literary blogs (, was puzzled by the idea that the two are somehow competing. "When bloggers disagree with or agree with an article about books in the mainstream press, it drives traffic to the newspaper," she said. The cutbacks at newspaper book reviews are unfortunate, but hardly the fault of bloggers.

"This was truly a false dichotomy," Mark Savas, who runs the L.A.-based blog the Elegant Variation, said by phone. "The two sides needn't be in opposition, certainly not at this time. There is a vast ecosystem of information about books out there, and all of it needs our support."

Sounds about right to me. Maybe I'll add a litblog section to my blogroll.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

1 comment:

Modern Matriarch said...

We could certainly use the support in a blogosphere dominated by sensationalism! LOL