It had just about gotten to the point where I was continuing to support the NBCC’s Campaign to Save Book Reviews in spite of themselves. It seems a lot of the call to arms has been at the expense of sites like this. For example, last week the NBCC’s interviewed author Sheila Kohler. The author was asked if her books were ever discussed on blogs and how that discussion differed from print reviews. Says Kohler:
Occasionally someone may mention my books in a blog. I believe the dangers of this indiscriminate reporting on books is that people who have no knowledge of literature can air their views as though they were of value and may influence readers. Critics may not always be right, of course, but at least they have read and studied literature, the great books, and have some outside knowledge to refer to when critiquing our work.
Ms. Kohler, you need have no fear. We will never talk about any of your books here. Ever. You have our word on that. But really, why even frame the question that way? Luckily, someone at the NBCC thought to get author, blogger, and print book reviewer Mark Sarvas’ take on the whole thing. Finally, someone who gets it.
I read a review in the New York Times recently for a book that I had recently finished and loved, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (BGB’s review is coming soon). It is my deeply held belief that the review is the laziest and most dismissive review possible. It was written by someone who was paid to do so in the “paper of record” that appears to not have thought about the book very much at all. The problem here is that many papers, like the AJC, have stated that they will come to rely on syndicated reviews from the NYT (and others) to bolster their own reduced reviewing. So one guy’s half-assed review will now be reproduced in papers across the nation. As traditional print reviews become more monolithic, the varied and voices of the lit blog scene may turn out to be a needed corrective.