Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author's (or filmmaker's or painter's) entire body of work, among other qualities.Clearly, Mr. Schickel has yet to read my penetrating critical analysis of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and Green Eggs and Ham. I think he'd realize pretty quickly just how seriously we bloggers take this criticism business.
If your appetite for condescension is as voracious as mine, read further for morsels like this:
D.J. Waldie, among the finest of our part-time scriveners, in effect said "fine." But remember, he added, blogging is a form of speech, not of writing.Well, I, for one, adore yammering away over here on my oasis of idiocy.
I thought it was a wonderful point. The act of writing for print, with its implication of permanence, concentrates the mind most wonderfully. It imposes on writer and reader a sense of responsibility that mere yammering does not. It is the difference between cocktail-party chat and logically reasoned discourse that sits still on a page, inviting serious engagement.
Maybe most reviewing, whatever its venue, fails that ideal. But a purely "democratic literary landscape" is truly a wasteland, without standards, without maps, without oases of intelligence or delight.
Meh. I can't even summon the energy to be insulted. What's come over me?
You know, this "web versus print" debate reminds me of the various online mommy wars I've noticed over the past couple of years. SAHMs versus WOHMs. Bottle versus breast. Cocktail playdates versus teetotal playdates. (FYI: I'm in favour of the former.) These are all media-concocted brouhahas designed to fill up column space and get attention.
At the end of the day, people who love books are like people who have kids: more alike than not. Let's accept it, get over ourselves, and move on. There are books to be read. And, apparently, fewer people than ever are reading them. Shouldn't those of us who remain have a friendly little cuddle to try to stay warm... perhaps around one of Tom Wayne's book-fuelled bonfires?
(Ups to Rusty for the link. I think this was supposed to be my anniversary present. He knows how to keep the magic alive.)