I would like to join my fellow bloggers in denouncing the provincial specifics of book review editors. This is, after all, a more pressing issue than the number of column inches available and the quality of coverage. I demand that all book review editors live in the same town, 365 days a year! No vacations! No retreats! Not even BEA! This is the only way that we can be absolutely sure of a book review editor’s integrity! To step foot outside of Chicago or Atlanta for even a week is to commit a journalistic disgrace that can never be forgiven. Of course, there are other things to denounce here. It’s almost as bad as being a Chicago blogger writing a blog post from Washington, DC. But we forgive bloggers because they are all based in Terre Haute.
So go figure. Ian McEwan takes questions from readers and then proceeds to openly insult them: “Publishers seem to be very keyed up to embrace the Internet, but I don’t have much time for the kind of site where readers do all the reviewing. Reviewing takes expertise, wisdom and judgment. I am not much fond of the notion that anyone’s view is as good as anyone else’s.” Okay, Ian, we get that you’re an elitist. If that’s the case, why subject yourself to the rabble of Time readers? Ain’t that a big hypocritical? Or do you truly feel that such sad interlocutory specimens as “When you are writing a book, do you expect it to influence your readers in a certain way?” are somehow better because they came from a magazine reader (as opposed to someone from the Internet, who may very well have offered the “expertise, wisdom and judgment” you call for)?
Annalee Newitz on the problems with Wikipedia: “Besides, who is to say what is ‘notable’ or not? Lutheran ministers? Bisexual Marxists? Hopefully, both. For me, the Utopianism of Wikipedia comes from its status as a truly Democratic people’s encyclopedia—nothing is too minor to be in it. Everything should noteworthy, as long as it is true and primary sources are listed. If we take this position, we avoid the pitfalls of 19th-century chroniclers, who kept little information about women and people of color in archives because of course those groups were hardly ‘notable.’ Yet now historians and curious people bang their heads against walls because so much history was lost via those ‘deletions.'”
fetishization of penury
See that’s annoying way to phrase something. Cormac wouldn’t approve.
The Ramirez article would have been interesting, but the “gee whiz them colored folks are readin’!” vibe to it is really obnoxious. He should have written about a book club that happened to be all African-American, rather than put so much emphasis on African-Americans that have a book club.
I saw the Cormac interview on Oprah the other day. Oprah went on and on about how “Night” was this amazing post-Apocalyptic American novel, and she’d never heard of such a thing. Did Oprah miss the 80’s or what? There’s a ton of books out there like that! Cormac seemed like such a cool guy. I just adore him now. I read “All The Pretty Horses” though, and I have to admit I prefer the movie. Oprah interviewed Michael Moore on that show too, which was pretty great. I’m psyched about that movie – it seems like issues don’t become popular in this country unless someone makes a movie about it. 🙁
I like Patricia Cornwall. Nobody messes with her!
You go J.W.!
I agree that McEwan’s kind of insulting, but I understand his point. Not everyone’s opinion is equally incisive, intellectual, well thought out, etc. I think bloggers take offense at this kind of stuff kind of reflexively because it’s bloggers who are usually on the receiving end of such comments. But, hey, it’s the truth. 90% of everything out there is shit. Or, worse, mediocre. The debate is more about whether there’s more shit on the blogosphere than in print media. And I would say, no. It’s about equal right. Possibly even more slanted toward there being more shit in print media. But, honestly, if 90% of everything that’s out there–blogs or print media–disappeared tomorrow, I would really still have a perfectly good life and not miss any of it.
The idea that everyone is equal, and equally equal in abilities/talent/etc. is actually kind of insulting. And leads to even more mediocrity.
Seconding Jeff: McEwan’s comments make a lot more sense in the light of, say, Amazon reader reviews, which we can all agree are 80% useless.
(And I don’t think it’s especially hypocritical of him to say that while accepting questions from Time readers; he didn’t say that he didn’t want to interact with the masses. Only that we’re not all capable of writing a worthwhile review.)
Although I agree that not everyone is equal in terms of talent or opinion, writers should think twice before making remarks like McEwan’s. No doubt, there are a lot of lousy reviews on the Internet. However, the fact is that those people are readers buying books and who obviously feel passionate enough about them to comment. Authors are increasingly coming out of their writing dens in order to promote their work, so perhaps a bit of thinking on how not to alienate the audience is warranted.
Weiner should get her facts straight. ‘The Road’ won the Pulitzer after Oprah chose it, not the other way around.
Jeff, the problem with McEwan’s comments isn’t his assertion that some opinions are more valuable than others. It’s a) the unspoken corollary that the less worthy opinions are the ones available online (because the people expressing them lack ‘expertise, wisdom and judgment’) and b) his apparent belief that the online reviewing landscape is an undifferentiated miasma of opinion in which coolguy123’s review of Brasyl is given as much weight, or indeed as much readership, as John Clute’s. This is such a blatant fallacy that I can only conclude that McEwan has never spent a consecutive half hour reading online review sites, which makes his eagerness to sound off on them more than a little grating.
Of course, there’s a difference between saying that not everyone’s opinion is equal and that certain opinions are all but worthless simply because they appear on the internet. I don’t know that this latter is necessarily McEwan’s point, but the feeling is definitely out there.