washington post

enough already

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,
. And yes, I picked up on this late, but then I don’t usually read the Washington Post.

war of the words

plot-heartremember me being bitchy about Harold Bloom being bitchy about Stephen King? This was back in November when King got the lifetime award from the National Book Foundation. The whole debate (popular fiction vs. so-called ‘literary’ fiction or, to get right to the heart of the matter: commercial vs. critical success) flaired up again when The Washington Post ran a story about that night in November when Stephen King said some Sharp Things to the literary elite and Shirley Hazzard (a card carrying member of that crowd) responded in kind. Then of course lots of other writers, editors and literary types jumped back into the pool to dunk each other one more time, notable among them Terry Teachout whose blog is called (auspiciously) ArtsJournal.com: the daily digest of arts, culture & ideas.

I like Terry’s blog; he’s interesting and funny, and mostly I just change the channel when I start to get irritated. Which I had to do this time. The only reason I’m bringing it up here is that there is one interesting observation to point out, and I’m quoting:

But it’s just as worthy of note that theWashington Post is now behaving as though litblogs have become a recognized part of the world of literary journalism.

I should leave it at this, but I can’t. Bookslut has also weighed in on the King-Hazzard controversy, again quoting:

It seems a matter of common sense. I think anyone who reads King’s comment that the new Peter Straub book lost boy lost girl deserves the National Book Award knows it is ridiculous. Unfortunately for King, the National Book Awards are not run like the Oscars where big and dumb rules, giving The Titanic the award over L.A. Confidential. (Yes, I’m still fuming.) And not that Straub is big and dumb, but it is a matter of storytelling vs. writing.

I didn’t realize that storytelling and writing were at war. In fact, pardon my populism, but it seems to me that the best novels combine good storytelling with good writing. (But then I’m an unapologetic member of the I like Plot club.) Peter Straub aside, it strikes me as an odd (and rather bellicose) to equate dumb with storytelling. Although I do agree with her about Titanic.