Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bloggers & Readers VS literary critics.

This article (Books bloggers are harming literature, warns Booker prize head judge) caught my eye today, and after thinking about it for a few minutes, I think it's annoyed me.  Peter Stohard, a head judge of the Booker Prize panel has suggested that
"If the mass of unargued opinion chokes off literary critics ... then literature will be the lesser for it"
Which sounds, to me like saying "We don't want people to talk about books amongst themselves, we want to tell them about what we think is good".  Apparently there is no room in the world for both reader-to-reader recommendations and legitimate literary criticism.  The ability to share opinions online appears to be reducing the need for formal writeups.

Personally, I've never really been able to place literary criticism on the reading scale.  There's reading for academic purposes, to write essays or semiotic analysis on texts, there's recommending books to friends, family, followers...there's reviewing books for sale or for promotion...but the role of the literary critic, to me, has always been a bit of a mystery.  I've always wondered who reads literary criticism recreationally.  There will always be literature students...do the critics write solely for them?  

I think the main thing that I object to in this article is the assumption that only the fiction that they deem good enough for them counts for anything.  The reason that they read must be the only reason anybody reads.  People read for all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons, and they enjoy different things about it and take away different things from every book.  "Unguarded", free opinion is worth less than their journalistic opinion.  Which is obviously nonsense.  In real life, people are more likely to take up a recommendation from someone that likes similar stuff to themselves, that recommends things out of enthusiasm, kindness and genuine interest, not some guy who makes a living writing about books.

I can't imagine this argument being made in any other leisure are.  Can you imagine if sports reporters or pundits decided that Twitter, forums and the rest of the internet reduced the impact or value of what they were saying?  Or if Rolling Stone or the NME decided to shut up shop because everyone gets their music news online and from Bloggers.  It's stupid.

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