The article “The Bionic Book Worm” appeared in The Independent on the 25th of September. The following is a response to the opinions expressed in the article.
So Sir Peter Stothard, a privileged white male (this is significant), is the editor of the Times Literary Supplement and a judge of the Man Booker Prize. According to him, the world of literary criticism is in danger because of bloggers who “will leave the industry “worse off” with their uneducated reviews of books they read and then write about. (Of course, some will assert that we do not write reviews, we write blog posts. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t.)
Stothard goes on to say that “[n]ot everyone’s opinion is worth the same.”
My lovely readers, I did not make this up. He is quoted verbatim. So, what we can understand from this article is that book bloggers like you and me? Our opinions count for nothing because whaddya know, we may not all have the same high level of tertiary education that is so necessary for us before we can tell whether we like a book or not. Our opinions have no bearing because we are not all speaking the literary critic’s language. Apparently “I like this book and this is why” has no bearing in the face of “confident criticism.”
Okay, show me hands if you read critical commentaries or book reviews to find out what book to read next? Because I don’t. I depend on people who read books I like. I read for entertainment and sometimes for knowledge. To be intellectually challenged as well as entertained – two main reasons I read. And the kind of literary criticism that Stothard talks about? I’ll be honest with you – they make books that I may want to read sound utterly boring so I avoid them. I want enthusiasm and glee and a sort of fanaticism that is only present in people who have shed all snobbery and elitism to push the books they love on other people. In other words, book bloggers.
This is not to suggest that other people do not read these literary criticisms Stothard is so proud of. They probably do, all 300 of them. Because let’s face it, literary novels may win honors, prizes, medals whatever but the audience? It will always, without fail flock to Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray or whatever novel promises the most entertainment. Which is not to say that I particularly liked any of those novels but these are facts, the numbers will prove my point. Literary novels such as the ones winning the Man Booker Prize do not have as much readership as genre fiction does. Stick with me, I have a point.
You do not see book bloggers making elitist comments saying that literary critics are a dying breed (which they might be) because we are cool like that. We love reading. We love talking about reading. So we may not have the degrees or the so-called qualifications to analyze a book, but we are certainly capable of discerning whether a novel affords enjoyment or not. The best thing about book blogging? The number of voices there are. Not all of us are privileged or white, not all of us have the same education but what we do have in amazing amounts is a love for books and where I come from, that’s all you need.
And of course Stothard is right when saying that not all opinions mean the same thing because his opinion means nothing to me. It makes me angry, yeah, that such an elitist, alarmist comment exists in the first place but honestly? Who cares? He will certainly not venture out into the crowds where bloggers lurk and even if he did, I doubt he’d find much of a warm welcome unless he gives up his hoity toity attitude. Colonialism ended a long time ago – we are no longer under any aegis to think that any race (societal construct though that may be) means more than any other.
Oh and according to Stothard, reading 145 books in one year is “unnatural”. I have read 334 books this year. I read widely and from many different genres. And I am not alone. Many of my fellow book blogger friends have read more than 150 books this year. And many of them read more than one genre – literary or otherwise. If you were to consider from that angle, it would make us book bloggers far more qualified to talk about books than some people I could mention.