Notable Articles and The Future of the Book

The Assimilation of the Book Blog

By posted at 5:15 am on February 23, 2007 5

I happened to notice recently, in my daily online wanderings, that the nominees have been announced for “The Seventh Annual Weblog Awards.” As usual, the organizers have listed a couple dozen categories, and as usual the same handful of blogs, more or less, are in the running. Many of the usual suspects are there, Boing Boing, PostSecret, Dooce, Gizmodo, Instapundit, Daily Kos, Lifehacker, and the rest – blogs that are now big business, some of which are owned by big businesses.

The omission of “literary bloggers” from this long list of nominees naturally seemed glaring to me, having had a front row seat for the last four or so years as an amorphous and very loosely affiliated movement of bloggers has greatly expanded the realm of literary discourse in the U.S. and elsewhere. And though there has sometimes been an unhealthy “us against them” mentality between bloggers and professional critics, in many ways this friction has melted away as critics have become bloggers themselves and as a number of talented bloggers have begun to invade the book pages, providing a pool of talent and a new voice to book review sections that were shrinking and stultified.

This is a big deal. Bloggers have helped create a new literary discourse that benefits readers, writers, and critics – a place where reading and discussing books for pleasure can augment the sometimes joyless drudgery that newspaper criticism has become. (Note how Jerome Weeks, now of book/daddy, jumped from his regular newspaper gig: “So it’ll be a relief to read for pleasure again. One reason it’s particularly appealing these days is that it’s so counter-culture — so counter to our prevailing techno-bully rapid-response profit-margin mindset.”).

Yet we need those sometimes bullying newspapers. As Kassia wrote in a post in the early days of the LBC, “Books don’t have endless windows opening for them.” This sentiment was echoed in an Orlando Sentinel essay by movie critic Roger Moore late last year: “Reviewers, in general, are canaries in the print journalism coal mine, the first to go. Classical music, books, visual arts and dance are dispensed with, or free-lanced off the bottom-line. That’s happened everywhere I’ve ever worked.” But as the big windows close, and criticism sections shrink or disappear, hundreds of smaller windows have opened.

In Kassia’s LBC essay, she went on to write, “It’s interesting to me that readers are leading the charge to discover and promote new, often overlooked fiction. Traditional avenues of literary coverage are necessarily limited in scope, even with the Internet.” I have come to believe, and I hope people agree with me, that book blogging is more than just a hobby. I say this not in a self-promotional or self-aggrandizing way (so many others are better book bloggers than I), but looking at how the public discourse about books has changed over the last few years. So, the truth is, having thought about it, I’m not disappointed that not a single book blog – not even some of the best (TEV, Ed, Bookslut, Conversational Reading… I could go on and on) – was singled out for recognition by the Weblog Awards. Litblogs have somehow gone too far down the path of assimilation to be considered for such distinctions, I think. Book blogs and traditional book criticism have intermingled sufficiently that they are now, except in a few remaining dusty corners, one.

My declaring it doesn’t make it so, but perhaps now, the us versus them mentality between the bloggers and the professional critics is mostly behind us. Which is good, because there are so many more books still to write about.





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5 Responses to “The Assimilation of the Book Blog”

  1. Brandon
    at 11:42 am on February 23, 2007

    I've looked at some of the other weblog awards and was dismayed that book blogs aren't often featured. I know Bookninja won a Canadian blog award for best entertainment blog, but he's a fluke, from the looks of things. But hey: maybe us litbloggers should simply come up with our own awards.

  2. bookababie
    at 5:18 pm on February 23, 2007

    Good idea Brandon!

  3. ZooTrouble
    at 5:50 pm on February 24, 2007

    yeah good idea
    ZooTrouble

  4. Jill Marie
    at 7:48 am on February 25, 2007

    Well you just keep on doing what you're doing because you're a daily stop for me and I haven't gone wrong yet on any of your reviews. You're my favorite literary blog. I've referred your link to countless friends — the feedback is always positive.

    When those eye-candy loving awards people get hip and add lit blogs, you've got my vote!

  5. Max
    at 6:26 am on February 27, 2007

    Thanks for the kind words, Jill. I think an award for book blogs might be fun. But like I said above, I don't know that an award is needed to address the good things these blogs are doing. I think these blogs' work speaks for itself.

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