The Plebeian Quest?; Book Bloggers and the Death of Literature

An article on Peter Stothard’s views on Literature and book bloggers in The Independent Tuesday has been widely discussed these last few days. Stothard, who edits the Times Literary Supplement, has been quoted to say that book bloggers are potentially killing Literary Criticism, “and says the rise of bloggers will leave the industry “worse off”.”The Independent

Journalism can be misleading, especially when Stothard has not written this article directly, so I will be taking what he said with a pinch of salt. While Stothard does qualify that it is wonderful there are so many blogs discussing literature, he believes, “Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same.”. Unfortunately with this comment Stothard has alluded that some opinions, such as bloggers, are not worth the credence of more educated minds. While I agree that there are many people who have studied literature to a degree where they have a more educated ability to critique, it should not be assumed that a book blogger cannot be one of those people.

What irritates me is the assumption that readers are ignorant fools who cannot tell when a book is significant or not. It is an insult to both the blogger and the reader. Every medium has its idiots, this is a given, but do not assume that people cannot sift through the crap to get to the gold.

“The novel is more than a story. Storytelling is a great art and not to be knocked.”The Independent article This I agree with; Ulysses by James Joyce, for example, is not a novel I believe I would enjoy, but it is a post-modern masterpiece. I could not write a blog on Ulysses literary significance; there will however, be a blogger out there who can. In addition, book blogging is not about finding and judging the next Ulysses, it is about the enjoyment and sharing of literature; to discuss a novel that made you cry, laugh or scream. To say book blogging is a potential damage to Literary criticism is to say amateur dramatics is potentially damaging to the Theatre. Book blogs have their place in the discussion and interpretation of art, there will always be the bad blogs or people who misunderstand a novels meaning, but readers are not idiots, they can spot a bad interpretation.

I have read many blogs that give wonderful insight into novels, not just their opinions on them, but a deconstruction of the novel itself. Other wonderful blogs do not do that, I value each equally. I do not want to buy a book because a critic has told me it is different from its predecessors, I want to buy one because someone has loved it so much that their enthusiasm has inspired me. This does not create a generation of genre readers or chick flick readers, it opens up a forum for people from all over the world to experience different works of fiction.

Of Books is not a home for reviews of newly released fiction, for several reasons; no one has asked me to, I do not actively follow new publications and I currently have a hankering for classics. I do not even consider my blog a place of ‘reviews’; my posts contain my feelings on, and interpretations of, the stories I read.

In conclusion, I am no literary critic; their have their place in literature and so do I. Book blogging will not kill literature, elitism will.

3 thoughts on “The Plebeian Quest?; Book Bloggers and the Death of Literature

  1. Significance spans so many levels, it’s impossible to say a book isn’t such, for sure, unless you’ve asked a great many people. You’ve made a good point about theatre, amateur dramatics is accepted, it’s seen as a possible first step to the major thing, likewise music and film, and to some extent art (that tends to have a different set of “values”). Book blogging could easily be the first step to professional, and we’ve seen this happen to John Self.

    “I do not want to buy a book because a critic has told me it is different from its predecessors, I want to buy one because someone has loved it so much that their enthusiasm has inspired me.” I don’t mind a critic saying it’s different, that might get me interested, but enthusiasm is the thing that makes the book stay in your mind until you’re holding a copy yourself, and indeed it’s what drives you to find the good in a book that you might have decided doesn’t work for you as it did the person who recommended it. I like the personal perspective you’ve included here, because as much as the article was against the community, it inevitably ends up against the individual too.


  2. I feel like every industry has this reaction when it comes to bloggers. I read a celebrity chef’s memoirs and I recall them talking about how restaurant reviews today aren’t like how they were in the old days. Critics would base a review on 2-3 dishes (or maybe it was 2-3 visits? I can’t remember exactly) whereas bloggers are quick to judge and judge permanently on that impression. Obviously this is paraphrased, but I get the impression no industry takes kindly to review-type bloggers in general.


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