I’ve decided to give up reading the dozen or so blogs that (1) pride themselves on their literary acumen and taste; and (2) take it upon themselves to move beyond flogging others who do not live up to their standards to trying to get them booted off the web. This includes Mark’s The Elegant Variation (he’s the one that pushed me past the point of no return with his Dump the Book Babes petition; more below), Sam at Golden Rule Jones, Daniel of The Reading Experience, and a host of others. I’m so pissed that I’m not even going to include links to their blogs, so if you want to read their side of this, you’ll have to go find them.
here’s the thing. There’s a column at Poynter Online (news for the journalism community) called Book Babes, written by two women. It’s supposed to be, as I understand it, about the publishing industry, for its insiders. But TEV decided that they weren’t doing a good enough job as so he started a petition to have the column handed over to somebody else. Who? He doesn’t say, but he wants somebody more literary. More in tune with his view of literary, at any rate.
Let me be clear: I don’t particularly like the Book Babes column, and I don’t think they helped matters with the column in which they responded to the petition (nor did Mark with his response to that column). In this back and forth, a lot of very complex issues got jumbled together, things to do with gatekeeping (and that is the issue here, no matter what the LitCrit Police would like to claim); elitism (which I admit, pushes all my buttons; and yes, I have a Princeton PhD — that’s precisely where I learned to hate the pompous academic oriented literature types); censorship; reading as a cultural experience; definitions of good and bad in storytelling; and the nature of the publishing industry.
I never have read the Book Babes and I won’t be starting. It’s not my claim that they deserve a huge readership, just that they don’t deserve to be dumped on by the self-annointed LitCrit Police, who I won’t be reading anymore. However, if and when one of them has a novel come out, I’ll read that. And you’ll hear about it here.
Postscript: someone who wishes to remain nameless sent to a link to this article (“It’s a Little Too Cozy in the Blogosphere”) by Jennifer Howard (dated November 16 2003 at washingtonpost.com). Note this memorable paragraph:
What began as the ultimate outsider activity — a way to break the newspaper and TV stranglehold on the gathering and dissemination of information — is turning into the same insider’s game played by the old establishment media the bloggerati love to critique. The more blogs you read and the more often you read them, the more obvious it is: They’ve fallen in love with themselves, each other and the beauty of what they’re creating. The cult of media celebrity hasn’t been broken by the Internet’s democratic tendencies; it’s just found new enabling technology.
Jennifer Howard has a website; there is also a discussion of her Washington Post article on blogging,
here. And yes, I picked up on this late, but then I don’t usually read the Washington Post.
One of the things I like about your blog is that you aren’t afraid to take a position and then, by god, act on it. Abandoning the LitCrit Police is a fine idea. Book Babes is not a very good column — although that assessment may not be fair as I’ve only read it a few times — but there’s a place for them. For everyone, I should have thought. Ah, well.
Carolyn See’s Friday book reviews are the single best thing in the Wash Post.
It has been said that my temper has a way of getting the best of me. In academia I made a whole career (and a successful one, I might add) out of a research area that really got under the skin of the Grammar Police (many of whom moonlight as LitCrit Police). As *English with an Accent* is still the standard text for courses on language and discrimination and in the public/educational eye, it happens now and then that I get outraged email, the general tone of which is: English not only is going to hell in a handbasket, but I’m the one carrying the damn thing. So yes, I’m not afraid to take a position. Once a faculty member who shall remain nameless called me a feisty Italian lady, and then stood mouth agape while I read him the riot act on every word in that phrase in isolation and then in relationship to each other.
In this case it’s really a minor matter in the greater scheme of things. How many people read blogs, anyway? We’re not talking about people being cheated out of their voting rights or who won’t get hired because they don’t sound white on the telephone, after all. I keep reminding myself of that.
I enjoyed Jennifer Howard’s week of blogging at bookslut. Like Jessa Crispin’s blogging, it’s clear we’re reading one person’s opinion. I’ve never read any of the books Crispin loves (just the same comics), but her thoughts are entertaining.
Ter, I’ll have to try Jessa Crispin. Thanks for the suggestion.
Yes, of course you’re right. Same deal as “It’s only a book — not a cure for cancer.” I’ve chanted that phrase countless times over the last many years, just to calm my silly self down.