Didn't know it was on

It seems our departing man at the Orange County Register wasn't making his "fuck you" sentiments public on-camera, after all. See below, third item in "Potshots."

So a working-class hero is something to be ... avoided.

As for being a blogging hero, book/daddy wasn't going to say anything about Bob Hoover of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's column on the critic Edmund Wilson and the whole blog-vs.-print meta-argument, but now that Critical Mass has given it extra prominence, we shall make only two points:

1) Unlike, say, Dan "The internet is best so get used to it" Green, this litblog actually agrees with a number of Sven Birkerts' observations about the structural differences between web writing and print reviews, about how blogging, unlike print, pushes connectivity and ephemerality, proliferation and dispersal. Hence, book/daddy's rousing defense of the middle-brow forum of the newspaper book page.

2) So when Mr. Hoover cites book/daddy as part of the tidal shift in favor of the internet, we must say, well, yes, but only reluctantly so -- swimming frantically in the wrong direction, even. Indeed, continuing his oceanic imagery, Mr. Hoover sees newspapers as the sinking Titanic, while litbloggers are "safe and warm in the Carpathia" (the Cunard liner that picked up Titanic survivors).

Safe and warm? Hmm, lemme check. Nope, sorry, feels like the icy grip of the North Atlantic. Frankly, book/daddy would happily grab a life preserver offered by a magazine, newspaper or book publisher. Blogging's fun, but it doesn't pay. What's more, as William Powers argues at the National Journal, newspapers are still where a great deal of serious news comes from. (It's an irony that Dan Green doesn't notice, for example, that while vehemently denying the somewhat parasitic nature many blogs have toward newspapers, he's blogging to dispute Birkerts' essay -- which appeared, of course, in the Boston Globe).

Why do you think -- at this late date -- Rupert Murdoch was so hungry to buy the Wall Street Journal? It's where successful people still get their information, even if it's relayed via their iPhone. We predict that if The New York Times were ever put on the auction block, you'd see a scramble for ownership rarely witnessed anywhere in the business community.

UPDATE: book/daddy and Mr. Green get it on in the comments section.

August 10, 2007 9:14 AM | | Comments (5)



Because although blogs may feature reviews, that isn't all they can do. The "linking" capacity of blogs makes possible a version of the "critical discourse" I referred to. It won't be the same as academic criticism, but it might end up being closer to that than it is to the newspaper review.

One hopes, with declining energy, that literary critics ultimately write about books and not just what other literary critics have to say -- whether they do all this writing in books or not.

You're still trying out the 'a review is a review' argument, and I'm still not buying it. The moment literary critics started writing about books in literary journals, the nature of their discourse changed. Literary journals reached a different audience, they were cheaper, written more quickly, etc. etc. And they fought for their own respectability as serious outlets.

Kinda like blogs. Heh heh.

Birkerts wrote about the nature of blogs, the nature of reading blogs -- I don't see anyplace he actually quoted the content of one. But one suspects he cheated and actually read a couple. Or so he says. But again, if you're so dead set on the notion that a review is a review is a review, how can you argue that blogs will actually be better for literary discourse? By what means?

"You couldn't make a living as a columnist -- for a major city paper, anyway -- writing about whatever the next guy just said."

Probably not. But you can carry out the job of a literary critic by doing that. That is, in fact, what most literary critics do. They build on the insights and commentary of other critics to inform their own commentaries. This has always gone on in, for example, academic criticism. Is this parasitic, or is it merely a certain kind of critical discourse?

"while piggybacking your own post on to Birkerts' essay"

I seem to remember that Birkerts's essay was itself piggybacked on blogs. Wasn't it occasioned by his reading of literary blogs?

Of course not. But then, if you, as a newspaper columnist, persisted in writing about other people's essays for the vast majority of your topics, I, as your gruff but wise newspaper editor, would gently suggest you try something else, something a little more original, before I bounce a typewriter off your head.

The point, surely, is that so many of the discussion topics debated on blogs -- when one traces them back -- originate in an AP wire report or a Washington Post political story or a NYTimes opinion piece or a magazine's book review. That was where the original legwork was done, the first lightbulb went on. And that costs money -- original news reporting and cultural coverage cost so much money that Google and a million other websites don't want to do it, preferring to just glom on to what's already available from established sources.

This is such a fact of newspaper/internet life that a number of industry analysts have suggested that newspapers figure a way to profit from all the news reporting and cultural coverage they're giving away free. This relationship is such an undeniable fact of blog life that I was a little taken aback when you denied it. It's even evident in many of the postings on your own site, Reading Experience.

Ah, but your argument is that an essay is an essay is an essay. Your posting should simply be taken as equivalent to Birkerts' column or any newspaper columnist commenting on Birkerts. Ergo, there's no parisitism involved; it's just one-on-one commentary.

And we may certainly consider things this way -- provided we forget the two vastly different media involved. We do it all the time. But when what we're arguing about is precisely the differences between blog and print essay, it seems a little blind to ignore those origins. If there weren't any such differences, you wouldn't be able to counter Birkerts with your assertions that blogs are actually better for literary discourse.

Consider it this way: We have two cars in a race. One is a solo project, custom built. The other is a mass-produced stock model from an auto company. And the custom job wins! This, then, proves that the solo effort is as good, if not better, than the more corporate model.

Yes, judged by that one standard. But then, let's ask the custom car builder to spend all the money and time and staff to test and prove and market the engine design that the auto company built and which the custom car builder wound up using anyway. An essay is an essay is an essay, but what got Birkerts' essay into print and aimed at the Boston audience to which it was originally directed, makes a big difference in the world of literature and media.

OK, forget the car metaphor. I'm from Detroit, what can I say? One-on-one, you may well argue Birkerts into the ground. But his point is that when there are thousands of blogs just like yours and mine, arguing and linking and quickly disappearing and going on to the next topic -- with just about anyone joining in, dropping out, linking to something else -- it makes for a fundamentally different sort of literary discourse than essays in established print outlets like books and magazines and newspapers. In some ways better, in some ways worse, but certainly different. And you agree with that -- it's just what's better or worse that we're pitching fits over.

So when you deny the often piggyback relationship of blog to print, while piggybacking your own post on to Birkerts' essay, then I'd say that's worth pointing out. That IS one of the differences between blog and print, as I indicated way, way up above: You couldn't make a living as a columnist -- for a major city paper, anyway -- writing about whatever the next guy just said.

If I (or anyone else) had published a response to Birkerts's essay in another newspaper or magazine, would this also have been "parasitic"?


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This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on August 10, 2007 9:14 AM.

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