According to Peter Stothard, this year’s chair of the Man Booker Prize judges, book bloggers are harming literature. Well thanks, Peter. Thanks a lot. I’m sure there are many people who have come across my blog who might have been indifferent or in strong disagreement with my reviews but I never expected the whole concept of my blog to be accused of being detrimental to literature. That seems quite extreme to me.
I am not a professional critic. I enjoy reading books and nobody pays me to write reviews. I did not study English Literature at university. I do not work in publishing or journalism. As a blogger, I don’t have an editor to check my posts and I know my writing isn’t perfect. However, I completely reject Stothard’s assertion that blogging is drowning out ‘serious criticism’. He appears to have lumped all bloggers into the category of what he calls ‘unargued opinion’. Sure, there is an awful lot of badly written stuff out there, but it isn’t universal.
When I write reviews, I try not to simply regurgitate the plot, not just because people don’t want spoilers but also because I don’t think an extended summary of the book really constitutes a proper review. Sadly quite a few newspaper critics are guilty of this and don’t actually express proper opinions about the book they are reviewing. I assume that people read reviews because they want to know what’s good and what’s not so good about a book. I have opinions about the books I read which I try and justify in my reviews.
I also believe it’s important to think about what other people may or may not like about each book. I recently read ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera and while I enjoyed it, I highlighted how the book could be perceived as being highly pretentious and I can completely understand why people might not like it. This is because it’s not just my opinion and my criticism which counts in the blogosphere. My blog is here to be read by people and I have many followers who regularly share their opinions both agreeing and disagreeing with what I have said. Not only that, but bloggers will have different ways of expressing those opinions and different explanations behind their reasoning. Criticism, whether it is academic or not, is nothing without diversity.
Some people might want the opinion of a ‘professional’ literary critic but plenty of people may also want to hear what us regular people have to say too. While bloggers might not write and structure their reviews according to a particular framework, I still believe they are equally valid. Rant over.