Picking Up the Slack (Part 2: Literary)

The New York Times has an article (reg. req.) about what I had mentioned the other day (shrinking Book Reviews). It gives a good summary of what’s going on but not about the forces at work on or the why of the Incredibly Shrinking Book Review.

Then there’s this:

Of course literary bloggers argue that they do provide a multiplicity of voices. But some authors distrust those voices. Mr. [Richard] Ford, who has never looked at a literary blog, said he wanted the judgment and filter that he believed a newspaper book editor could provide. “Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership,” Mr. Ford said, “in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.”

To which I say, “bullshit.” Nice of the NY Times to give the final word on lit-bloggers to an old-curmudgeonly-sounding author who’s never read a blog. Serious literary bloggers (like the ones cited in the article, some of whom I link to in my blog-roll) know that they have a responsibility to literature and to other passionate readers. Their credibility is earned over time. Just because they are not backed by a 150 year-old established newspaper, does not mean they don’t have the skills, intelligence, and depth of understanding to give a thorough and informative review of a book.

Yes, the ground is shifting. I’m not sure myself where it’s all going to lead. But I can tell you that it has freed up a lot of talented passionate people to write a lot about books and the business of books. Which, in the end, is good for literature.

You want long considerate posts on books? Go to Conversational Reading. Scott Esposito does just that on his blog and at the site The Quarterly Conversation, along with a host of other writers. Scott likes post-modernists like Pynchon and DFW much more than I do, but he writes about them with a lot of care and thought.

Then there’s Elegant Variation, a site by Mark Sarvas who posts notes, covers book events, and then follows his passions like he did with the multi-part interview with John Banville, one of his favorite writers.

There’s the indefatigable Maud Newton and the always interesting Laila Lalami.

There’s MJ Rose over at Buzz, Balls & Hype, who writes on marketing in the book business, or should we say the lack of decent marketing in the book business.

For the business-side of books there’s GalleyCat.

And let’s not forget the amazing Bookslut. Who not only has a blog, but her own magazine with interviews and reviews, and a Reading Series in Chicago, too.

Then there’s the Litblog Co-op, with its mission to give needed attention to under-appreciated books its members feel deserve more praise and sales.

I haven’t even touched on the numerous blogs and sites dedicated to Fantasy, Sci-fi, Romance, Mystery, you name it. There are so many lit-blogs out there with flavors for every book-reading taste. Just take a look.


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