Lev Baby, you were doing so well. And then you penned this silly puff piece on Harriet Klausner! Unmentioned in Mr. Grossman’s writeup is the fact that Klausner doesn’t write a single negative review, much less offer her audience anything more than a plot summary or an idea of who the book might appeal to — thus calling into question her critical acumen. Even stranger, Grossman writes that “she is one of the world’s most prolific and influential book reviewers.” Well, I’ll certainly agree with Grossman that Klausner is “prolific.” Then again, a rat pops out a litter of 10 to 12 every 22 days and very few sane people celebrate the dissemination of pestilence.
But influential? What self-respecting literary enthusiast looks to Klausner’s reviews as the real deal? There’s a reason why you don’t see Klausner’s blurbs quoted on dust jackets. I’m sure Klausner has her fans, but where are they exactly?
Perhaps more egregious than all of this is Grossman’s needless self-flagellation here:
People don’t care to be lectured by professionals on what they should read or listen to or see. They’re increasingly likely to pay attention to amateur online reviewers, bloggers and Amazon critics like Klausner. Online critics have a kind of just-plain-folks authenticity that the professionals just can’t match. They’re not fancy. They don’t have an agenda. They just read for fun, the way you do.
On the contrary, some of us out here do care (or are at least interested in) what professionals have to say (including you, Lev Baby!). Why else would we be so hard on you? Or send you brownies and fruit baskets? We want you to think better! We want you to raise the bar!
I must also take umbrage with the idea that a professional critic cannot adopt a “just-plain-folks authenticity.” John Freeman, whom I have criticized on these pages, does indeed effect a “just-plain-folks authenticity” quite well in his reviews. You’re not always going to get deep insight, but at least you’ll get a dependable book overview.
And then there’s the idea that a professional critic cannot read for fun (as opposed, apparently, to the Harriet Klausners of the universe, who, conversely, cannot develop a palate). Huh? Why the hell else would you subject yourself to a book or an author and take the trouble to write about it? For the abysmal pay? For the possibility that your review will be ignored by most of the readers?
Perhaps what Grossman is confessing to us here is that he’s not having much fun being a book critic. If so, then why the hell would you stay in the business? I cannot fathom why anybody would spend so much of his life doing something that he clearly didn’t think was fun. I also cannot fathom a spectrum with FUN at one end and CRITICAL at the other. Isn’t there room here for both? Cannot one be both fun and critical? That’s certainly what I try to do.
Christ, do I have to send Grossman another fruit basket?
Or perhaps Grossman should start a blog like the rest of us and join the party. Some of us out here even blog in the nude.
Grossman won’t start a blog. Then he’d actually have to deal with these criticisms directly rather than hiding behind his Time articles.