Why aren’t there more white collar critics? Or, more specifically, why aren’t there more snobs who believe they’re championing blue collar critics when they have about as much interest in the working class as a permanent resident of a gated community?
It is a very good thing indeed that the white collar critics could care less about devoting their precious real estate to those scruffy baristas or those dirty steelworkers (despite NAFTA, believe it or not, there remain some mills open on American soil! Who knew?). How dare they quote Aeschylus? And how dare some of these overeducated white-collar doctorates remember their Greek playwrights? We all know the game: ignorance and conformist thinking is bliss!
The white collar critic’s limo liberal guilt has been a grand ruse for some time now. The book reviewing landscape has been a closed system. And a good thing too! Who needs some interloper with a mere bachelor’s degree ready to shake things up when you can embrace the lackluster “humor” of a complacent reactionary like Joe Queenan? He’s “funny,” because the superior white collar system says so! And because anybody who worked at Vanity Fair with Tanenhaus, washed up or not, is “Funny” with a capital F! Who needs speculation on Marianne Wiggins’s fascinating new novel when the white collar environment can explain every detail to you like you’re a rictus-mouthed literary socialite at a bland cocktail party? Intellectual conformism — the great stock in trade of the white collar critic — dictates that the white collar critics know what’s best, mostly because their shirts are so impeccably starched. They are the grand gatekeepers. The ONLY gatekeepers! So let’s take all the fun out of newspapers by populating these book review sections with a sea of Babbitts! The white collar critics will never permit their readers a scintilla of independent thought, much less an idiosyncratic insight. They dictate. They decide how you think. They’re white collar and they’re proud. And they live by the admirable mantra: We take no chances!
Support your white collar critics today! Don’t just buy one edition of the New York Times every Sunday. Buy twelve!
Factors here, as I see them:
A decline in public education, a decline in print media, a widening of the cultural-class gap, and, finally, an increasing sense that pondering aloud on such topics is the same as doing something about them.
I don’t blame Tanenhaus particularly, or other book critics. It’s just the times. Not the NYT, but the times in the best of/worst of sense. The era. That’s not to say it is insoluble, just that the problem is bigger than this particular issue, I think.
Lessee…. Many in Flint, Michigan are too busy surviving to consider documenting their experience for our reading pleasure…also, I hate to say this, but it seems that international writers have a much better chance at publishing their shattering memiors. Homegrown suffering is just too close for comfort. Do y’all really wanna hear about my Detroit childhood and how Japanese imports ruined our lives, or would you rather read Eggers writing about somebody from across the world?