Ένα ενδιαφερον ποστ (Ευχαριστω τον καθηγητή Βασιλη Λαμπρόπουλο από το Πανεπιστημιο του Μίσιγκαν που μου το επισήμανε) που μιλα για την κριτικη λογοτεχνιας και το δίκτυο, εγειροντας σημαντικα ζητηματα, που μπρουν να ανοιξουν ενδιαφερουσες συζητησεις. To κομμάτι που μιλά για τα βιβλιοφιλα μπλογκ ειναι, κατα τη γνώμη μου, εξαιρετικά αυστηρό απέναντί τους.
ΥΓ. Είμαι αναγκασμενος να το ποσταρω στα αγγλικα.
Morris Dickstein on the Critical Landscape Today
OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS, the erosion of space for book reviews directed at general readers has reached critical proportions[...] This suggests that the publication of book reviews for a general audience is in dire straits, largely because newspapers and magazines themselves are under terrific pressure - from the Internet, where much of the advertising has migrated; from corporate owners, whose shareholders expect a better return on investment; and from editors who feel that books have become a specialized taste and book reviews are a marginal form of journalism, little more than free publicity for publishers. They have no such compunction about reviewing movies, since this pays the bills. Adam Shatz, the literary editor of The Nation, writes to me that “we live in an age where people who used to pay attention to book reviews pay more attention to movie reviews. Books are still read and enjoyed, but the pleasure is had at the expense of analysis and criticism, as if the latter somehow robbed us of the fun instead of adding to it. And doubtless there are commercial considerations as well, with Hollywood buying more ad space.” It’s no surprise that money talks, but could it also be that the action has simply moved on?Literary journalism has always been the bastard child of serious criticism and ‘real’ journalism, the hard stuff, you know, about serial killers and five-alarm fires along with local politicians and U. S. Senators. Book review editors often have difficulty convincing their bosses that the news about books is in the books themselves, not in mega-buck contracts, bestseller chitchat, and profiles of famous authors.
Truly conscientious reviewers are not exactly a beloved breed: authors sensitive to criticism detest them, publishers would love to coopt them, and academics rarely respect those who write for a wider public, not for other scholars. Yet book reviewing is where talented young critics often get their start. It encourages them to be generalists, keeping in touch with contemporary writing. It forces them to write quickly and clearly and to put flesh on their arguments, eschewing the abstract jargon of many professionals. And it contributes to a cultural conversation otherwise dominated by hot TV shows, blockbuster movies, and media-manufactured celebrities.
Without such reviews, we’re left with high profile pseudo-events produced by expensive hype and shrewd marketing.Reviews are even more vital to the assimilation of literary works, which can’t depend on topical interest to attract readers. A handful of literary titles do well because their authors are known quantities, as familiar to their admirers as famous actors. But intelligent reviews - and the word-of-mouth that followed - helped build their renown in the first place. With the decline of book reviewing, who will take the measure of the next generations? The term “standards” may seem old-fashioned in our anti-elitist culture. But critical standards are essential not to impose hierarchy but to celebrate genuine craft, imagination, and human interest, or to show where they fall short, even in the work of talented writers. Useful reviewing comes in many guises: rapturous accounts of thrilling new discoveries, interpretive discussions of complex literary careers, and killer reviews targeting inflated reputations. All can serve a worthwhile purpose.We shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that most reviews do this well. Reviewing, like any form of writing, is a demanding craft. Too many reviews consist of banal plot summaries laced with unsupported judgments or opinions.
Stung by uncomprehending reviews, Henry James described literary journalism in 1891 as “a periodicity of platitude and irrelevance,” adding that “it had nothing in common with the art of criticism.” Yet James himself had written a mountain of periodical reviews, and they form an amazing part of his legacy. Even obtuse reviews help build a conversation around the important new publications. Skeptical editors have a point - they do constitute free publicity - but for books that are more literary than commercial - for midlist fiction, for example, or for poetry - this is the only publicity they’re likely to get, since publishers will scarcely advertise them.Luckily, at the higher end of the cultural spectrum, serious book reviewing is somehow holding its own. [...]
Some observers, I’m sure, would look to online blogs as a substitute for printed reviews. They might argue that the Internet, though it has undermined many publications, offers a more accessible venue to prospective writers and Web-surfing readers. As far as I can see, a strong case can be made only for online magazines like Slate and Salon or highly selective portals like Arts & Letters Daily, which most resemble the print journals and literary miscellanies on which they’re modeled. These are edited sites, much like print publications but quite unlike the river of complaint, prejudice, and enthusiasm that makes the Internet so egalitarian. Since everyone has political opinions, political blogs have thrived where literary blogs have faltered. The real site of literary comment on the Web is not the blogs - apart from our own blog, The Valve, and the personal blogs of prolific scholars like Michael Bérubé - but the intriguing customer reviews on Amazon, which differ little from the customer reviews of travel destinations, computer software, and home appliances. It’s nice that the Internet is a talk-back medium, with articles dragging long tails: a buzz of reader reactions, however fatuous. But book reviews, to be of any value, demand a trained sensibility and real critical expertise; they need to furnish more than rough-hewn consumer guidance and the colorful peeves of the man in the street.
Though it is built on reading and writing, the Internet is seen as the enemy of literature, digging the grave of the printed book. But just as the computer lent new fluency to the act of writing, the Internet has revolutionized literary research, allowing instant access to vast bodies of information that would have required arduous labor only yesterday. It has amplified the reach of print publications by becoming a prime carrier of the printed word, creating a simultaneous worldwide audience for publications great and small, local and national. But the economic crisis afflicting newspapers and magazines, which has battered literary journalism, shows how the Internet is eating away at it own foundations, the printed sources of so much of its real content. The blog will not make up the difference, at least in its unedited form as a spontaneous effusion, a personal diary in shorthand. As Adam Kirsch has written: “Bitesized commentary, which is all the blog form allows, is next to useless when it comes to talking about books. Literary criticism is only worth having if it at least strives to be literary in its own right, with a scope, complexity, and authority that no blogger I know even wants to achieve."