Due to a crazy deadline (now beat!), I was unable to make last night’s NBCC panel, despite a few kind reminders from fellow litbloggers. But Mr. Orthofer has provided a fantastic “you are there” report (as does the excellent Richard Grayson). One of the most salient revelations:
[Name redacted to avoid yet another round of silly charges suggesting that I want to blow the man] suggested that, unlike someone writing a novel or poetry and finding satisfaction in creating something like that, even if it was never published, no one writes book reviews just for their own pleasure and satisfaction, but I don’t think that’s correct: there are an enormous amount of readers’ diaries out there, or sites where readers just seem to want to sum up (and/or share) their thoughts on their reading, whether as semi-formal ‘book-reviews’ or looser notes.
It certainly isn’t correct. When I was seventeen, I was having difficulty writing an essay. I openly confessed this to a teacher, a man who I am perpetually grateful to, and this teacher suggested to me that I should have fun with the essay instead of worrying about it. A giant lightbulb appeared above my head. Since then, I’ve done this for almost everything I’ve written. It has remained a long-standing principle to write in an entertaining manner and therefore find some kind of pleasure and satisfaction that is, I hope, transmittable to a readership. After all, why should writing be dull? If the things I wrote weren’t fun or engaging in some manner, then why would I be doing it? What would be the point? I would willfully recuse myself from writing about some topic if it became a drag. Thankfully, there will always be plenty of things to write about that do tempt my inner and ever-curious imp.
I think this is one the main differences between litbloggers and some (but, to be very clear on this, by no means all!) print reviewers. The issue certainly isn’t one of “being rejected by the print powers.” Frankly, there really isn’t much of a disparity between the authors who appear on The Bat Segundo Show and the authors who are profiled in The Hartford Courant. So why constantly wag fingers?
The tone here is not so much anti-establishment, as it is anti-bullshit. And my own tendency to question individuals, including myself, is that of a healthy and playful skeptic. It does not arise from being excluded (although, judging from the hate mail I often get, some people would be happy to see me go away), but because nobody else is willing to question these sacred cows. If the original definition of journalism involves “writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition,” then perhaps print and online mediums aren’t so different. And maybe the purported print mavens are only fooling themselves when they compare blogs to hot dog stands and newspapers to restaurants. Sometimes, you pay more at a restaurant that fails to live up to its purported reputation when you can sometimes get a better meal at a diner without the bullshit. And sometimes, well, a Gray’s Papaya hot dog ain’t exactly the right meal to get you through the day. In the end, it all amounts to the the best options that will serve you at the requisite time. To carry on a series of castigations or generalizations against one medium or the other is to willfully succumb to a lifelong diet of bologna sandwiches. And that’s certainly no fun.