It's Only An Opinion, But...

Writer Sven Birkerts, in a recent article in the Boston Globe, Lost in the Blogosphere: Why Literary Blogging Won't Save Our Literary Culture, writes that the shared standards of criticism that give context and value to the work of the professional reviewer are missing from most litblogs. Birkerts isn't suggesting that bloggers shouldn't write about books (mon dieu!), but that we shouldn't confuse literary criticism with expressing opinions:
"The implicit immediacy and ephemerality of "post" and "update," the deeply embedded assumption of referentiality (linkage being part of the point of blogging), not to mention a new of-the-moment ethos among so many of the bloggers...favors a less formal, less linear, and essentially unedited mode of argument. While more traditional print-based standards are still in place on sites like Slate and the online offerings of numerous print magazines, many of the blogs venture a more idiosyncratic, off-the-cuff style, a kind of "I've been thinking . . ." approach. At some level it's the difference between amateur and professional. What we gain in independence and freshness we lose in authority and accountability."
If you'd like to learn more about the recent cutbacks in book coverage at major metropolitan newspapers, the National Book Critics Circle has launched a Campaign to Save Book Reviews.


MadSilence said...

Interesting. I’m reading Andrew Keen’s book, The Cult of the Amateur. Keen seems to share Birkerts’ concern about confusing educated criticism with mere opinion. Keen is “keenly” (ahem) concerned with how the avalanche of amateur generated opinion is overwhelming the voices of the experts. And while I haven’t finished the book I find myself agreeing with the author. The voices of a million uneducated donkeys can generate only nonsense. And while I believe in free speech, the great majority of blogs I read contain garbage. Keen shares Birkerts’ concern about the loss of support for the traditional news media. Educated & experienced critics have become disenfranchised. Whenever I post on MadSilence I ask myself, do I really improve upon the silence? MadSilence

Clara said...

At the risk of sounding elitist, MadSilence, I have to agree. I've become more interested in the topic recently because we're seeing a growing number of metropolitan newspapers cutting back on arts (particularly book)coverage, firing their arts/book critics, or both. One of the arguments being made by those who don't see a problem with this is that the book criticism vacuum is being filled by the many individuals with "litblogs." As snarly as Richard Schickel was in his article noting that having an opinion about a book is one thing and book criticism is another (I wrote about this at
http://tinyurl.com/2tbl34), I found myself agreeing with him.

Thanks for looking in.