Michael Dirda and I have emailed. He’s a reasonable guy and he confessed to me that it was likely that he was having a bad day. Like any of us, Dirda is concerned about the future of literary discussion. (And it should also be noted that Dirda maintains an online weekly book chat for the Washington Post.) In an effort to keep the discussion constructive, I have offered him some ideas on where print and online might meet in the next ten years. (And, yes, I also attempted to email John Freeman, but he has proven, to put it lightly, highly antagonistic towards civil conversation.)
I suspect that much of the hostility towards online literary outlets comes from print people who again see it as a threat and would rather bash those participating in literary matters rather than integrate it. That’s a great shame. Because all of us are really on the same side here.
UPDATE: Former San Francisco Chronicle Books Editor Pat Holt, one of the first literary journalists to understand the possibilities of the Internet, has offered a new column (her first in many months) on the issue, asking:
But maybe it’s time for those of us who have worked as critics for a living to evaluate what’s happened to our profession — and why we may be driving readers away.
In the last 25 years, just about everything about the print experience has changed — except the way critics review books.
UPDATE 2: John Freeman has offered a more conciliatory post this morning, pointing out, “It is in the preservation of that resource that we are fighting now — and we’re asking everyone who cares about it to join us. Even those of you — print journalists or bloggers — who write in your fierce pajamas.”
While this doesn’t address all the problems of the NBCC’s campaign, it’s a very encouraging start. I have again reached out to Freeman by email.
UPDATE 3: Dan Wickett also offers his thoughts, pointing precisely how he started off in the blogging business. I have to say that if you told me three years ago that I’d be talking with John Updike, Richard Ford, Erica Jong, T.C. Boyle, Martin Amis, and many other fantastic authors (120+ interviews in just under two years), that I’d be reviewing books at newspapers, that I’d be a member of the LBC and the NBCC, that I’d be seriously working on my own novel every dutiful Sunday, that I’d have more books than I’d know what to do with and that I’d find many good friends from all this, I wouldn’t have believed you. Like Dan, my unexpected trajectory into books emerged out of my literary passions. This came from nothing, and I certainly expected nothing. I just worked very hard under the often crazed circumstances, did my best to answer every email, and did the very best I could to present literary coverage, hoping that others might find some use for the bounteous material here and elsewhere. I’ll have more to say on this, and other matters, in about two weeks, when I’ll be making a major announcement here. But I truly believe we are in a serious convergence. I also believe we can put last week’s fracas behind us and concentrate on what we all do to soldier forth into the literary future.