and sundry litbloggers have taken note of “The Populist Manifesto,” yesterday’s Washington Post story about the Stephen King-Shirley Hazzard dustup at the National Book Awards ceremony. Here’s the nut graf:
On the streets of Washington and across America, a war is being waged between popular novels and literary fiction. In this increasingly aliterate nation–acrawl with people who can read but don’t–the battle for readers is a high-stakes campaign.
Since I (1) write a column for the Post, (2) was interviewed for the story and (3) am quoted extensively therein, I’ll refrain from commenting either way on its merits, but I do want to say something about The Elegant Variation’s sulfurous response:
Others have already linked to this Washington Post piece about the King/Hazzard contretemps, so I may be beating a dead horse but I have to wonder when this idiotic “literary vs. genre” nonsense will play itself out.
There’s not a single message board that I have ever visited — not one — that does not include some form of this exhausted debate, usually in terms and tones incendiary and condescending. And after perusing all the miles and KB of threads, I’m forced to ask the question: Who cares? Isn’t it enough to say that each side probably envies something the other side has, and to leave it at that? How much more really needs to be said?
Hold on there a minute, hoss. The fact that lots and lots of people (OGIC and myself included) have blogged about this “exhausted debate” is apodictic proof that lots and lots of people care, and at least hints at the further possibility that the debate might be somewhat less than exhausted.
Bookslut, on the other hand, framed the diminishing-returns debate in a slightly different way, suggesting that the Post article “may have seemed more relevant if it had been published soon after the National Book Awards ceremony. I thought this had already been talked out.” And so it has–out here in the blogosphere, where lead times are shorter and trigger fingers itchier. But as has been widely observed of late, the whole point of the blogosphere is that it appears to consist, at least at present, of a fairly small universe of early adopters and opinion-shapers whose views are initially disseminated and discussed in cyberspace, only then making their way into the slower-responding world of print media. (Or, to invert the Fox News slogan, we decide–they report.) As a result, that which strikes us as yesterday’s news may actually be tomorrow’s news, or next month’s news, in the “real” world of journalism.
For this reason, instead of grumping about how the Washington Post is beating a dead horse, I wonder if we might possibly do better to say, “Cool–they noticed. And they even remembered to mention that we got there first!” For as Exhalations pointed out,
It was interesting to note that a blog was referenced, Terry Teachout’s About Last Night. It was the first time I’ve seen such a casual reference to a blog without the reporter having to explain the term