Rose-Colored Glasses

It appears that the J in M.J. Rose’s name stands for “Julavits.”

Without naming names or citing any specific examples (or, for that matter, actually invoking an argument for why any of it is bad), M.J. Rose offers us yet another piece of flummery complaining about what she identifies as “whining” (and what the rest of us might call identifying and criticizing specific publishing issues so as to better understand them) on the blogosphere. Her ostensible point is “because there are over 195,000 books published a year and they can’t all get reviews in the NYTBR.”

Well, it’s clear that Ms. Rose fails to comprehend the argument. The amount of books being published is not the issue. It’s the substantive nature of how the current publishing industry is being covered and represented in print that the blogosphere is being taken to task. It’s not all bad. But as demonstrated here and at other places, it has been repeatedly shown that the NYTBR continues to give fiction (and specifically literary fiction) the shaft and maintain a balance of male-to-female book reviewers that is completely out of step with the current population (and, in particular, readers). (By the way, a Tanenhaus Brownie Watch is in the works for last Sunday.)

Second, what’s wrong with complaints anyway? Voicing grievances is often a good way to get a discussion going and it allows all of us to work together towards contemplating a solution. Plus, it serves as a catharsis for all involved. Publishing is a tough business, one that involves working on a book for years only to see a meager advance completely out of proportion with the labor expended. It’s enough to drive just about any stable person crazy.

But most importantly, there’s something important that needs to be said here. Why should anybody take an opinion seriously when the person who posits it continues to engage in a passive-aggressive approach to intellctualism without a specific example? I say this because Ms. Rose continues to perpetuate an image as a publishing wag, yet continuously refrains from stating her larger points, stopping at “You’ll notice I haven’t linked to any of the whining.” Either she’s afraid of offending or interested in getting out of her “arguments” when backed into a corner, presumably so that she can tell you in person, “Oh, I wasn’t really talking about you!”

If Ms. Rose has a beef with me or another blog, that’s fine. I’m not going to take offense. What I do take offense to is the idea of anyone presenting herself as an expert and then using their blog as some sort of reserved pulpit instead of contributing to the active discourse.

There have been many times where I’ve vehemently disagreed with many of the fine folks on the left, both publicly and privately. But I also respect them as adults — meaning that I know that they are grown up enough to engage in a conversation and not take some of my more exuberant views too much to heart (or vice versa). We’re all passionate about books and publishing, but that doesn’t mean we all think the same or can’t challenge each other.

So my question to Ms. Rose is this: Why not have the courage to say what you genuinely think so that some of us out here can actually understand your points? Or is that too much to expect from someone long in the habit of applying the hypocritical “etiquette” of Emily Post to the blogosphere?

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  1. All points well taken.

    I have nothing but respect for argument.

    But I don’t think whining is argument.

    And a lot of blogs have great arguments.

    Including this one.

    What I was reffering to isn’t what you are doing, Edward.

    I’m sorry if you think so because I really like your blog.

    I should have posted links but I didnt’ want to give the posts more attention.

    There is a huge difference between arguing about what’s wrong with publishing and reviews etc – which I agree – there’s a tone that’s wrong – and using that as an excuse for why your own books aren’t getting more attention.

    I just thought it was an interesting observation and wondered if it was me – or others were noticing it.

  2. MJ: Thanks for weighing in.

    The point I was trying to make is that blogs (and their concurrent kvetching) often serve as an impetus for a conversation or what we are referring to in this case as an argument. I should point out again that the blog form is one that often involves fragmented thoughts or ideas which may or may not be half-baked. But I would argue that if they come here in the form of a complaint or a bitch, then they are still valid. Because ultimately, venting does lead to something constructive.

    To kill that impulse in the womb before it’s been allowed to germinate strikes me as a bad precedent. Particularly when I still don’t know what it is you’re referring to. (You allude to a mysterious tone, but again you’ve produced no examples here.)

    So I am led to believe that it is bitching, or quite possibly Julavits’ anti-snark idea, that you are objecting to. Which I find a dangerous precedent in an age where the forces of politeness and unilateralism discourage people from voicing what’s on their minds.

  3. What kind of argument is this where the combatants make nice to each other and are fawning til sundown.

    No blood, no fight!


  4. Ah. Okay. I understand Ed.
    No, I wasn’t advocating politeness at all. I just didn’t express myself well enough.

    I’m going to blog my answer to you and send you the link.

  5. Ah. Okay. I understand Ed.
    No, I wasn’t advocating politeness at all. I just didn’t express myself well enough.

    I’m going to blog my answer to you and send you the link.

  6. Ah. Okay. I understand Ed.
    No, I wasn’t advocating politeness at all. I just didn’t express myself well enough.

    I’m going to blog my answer to you and send you the link.

  7. Since when should reviews be parcelled out according to the number of males and females in the population? Should the publishing industry be obligated to do the same for the authors?

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