Bit of a head-scratcher in the twitterverse today as I discovered a link to a well-known literary critic (in those circles at least) who complained that book bloggers are causing problems for literature. Huh? You can read what Mr. Stothard had to say here: http://ht.ly/dZy8V. His premise is basically this: the proliferation of non-professional book critics via blogging is going to drown out the voices of serious, literary critics making it more difficult for readers to discover great works of literature.
Yes, I know. You can quit your snorts of laughter now. I’ll be the first to say that the vast majority of book bloggers do not provide critical analysis of literary fiction. A few do, I’m sure, and if you are actually looking to find them, I’ll bet it’s not too hard to find. The fact is, if you are looking for great, literary fiction, it’s not hard to find sources that discuss/critique those stories. There are bloggers out there who are not professionally paid literary critics, but have the background, interest, and where-with-all to tackle literary fiction. Most readers, however, are not. The general reading public reads for entertainment mostly. Do these stories require deep, critical analysis? Probably not. They do require thoughtful opinion though, and that is within the purview of most readers.
Book bloggers offer their opinions on books because of one thing, they love books. They want people to know about them. Let’s face it, there are way more good stories out there for you to read than you’ll ever be able to get to. Finding good ones can be difficult. Are you going to find them among the literary critics? No. Popular fiction isn’t something they examine, which is fine. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if they look down on popular fiction or have the pretentious attitude that they aren’t worth reading. We all know they are. Literary works are too. Some books are works of art when it comes to language and/or expressing the human condition. Literary critics can continue to work in those circles. It’s worthwhile and useful. Will they be drowned out by the rest of the book blogosphere? No.
The thing is, people talk about books. A lot. People who read popular fiction also read literary fiction. Word gets passed around. Bloggers are interconnected. If anything , a proliferation of book bloggers will only enhance the ability for an artful piece of fiction to get notice. It will also get more good popular fiction noticed. To those literary critics out there pretentious enough to think so, readers read more than one type of story. We read romances, mysteries, biographies, fantasies, and hey, even literary fiction. Why? probably because a trusted blogger resource heard from another blogger who heard from a blogger who read some lit critics analysis and decided to give the book a shot and then spread the word. It happens.
So, lit critics, get off your high horse, if you’re currently on one. Not every book out there is or needs to be worthy of the Booker Prize or Pulitzer. Nor are we immune or ignorant of your analysis and critique of said books. We hear about them. Word gets around. Just because your pond has become an ocean, doesn’t mean we don’t know where to go looking for the beautiful fish.