“At a time when unpaid bloggers online are gaining influence at the expense of professionals, we need to convince the public that good reviewers exist, and are still worth listening to. Otherwise, our readers will continue to look to the internet for news, and the art of the book review will join the typewriter in the trashcan of Time.”
Criticism is fine : But do you have to spoil the plot? Joanne Harris: The Independent, May 15th 2012
Superbly put right? Regardless of how you may feel about Harris’ point (and, for the record, I think that she’s talking a lot of sense and that also the Trashcan Of Time needs to appear in the Tardis in the near future), I think there’s something here that bears wider weight and is worth unpicking.
I’ve recently embarked upon one of the steepest learning curves of my literary career. I write, for myself, and now I am learning how to write for others. Constructing a story is easy. Constructing a book is hard.
I respect anybody who can do that. I massively, massively respect that. And when I write about literature, I try to respect that. I am in awe of writers. Ultimately when I review, I review from the perspective of a fan. A fan who loves books, pure and simple, and I love being able to share that with people. I’d not refer to myself as a “professional” and that, I think is something more related to my superb ability for self-deprecation rather than anything else and especially not related to working online as opposed to traditional media.
I do wonder though what “professional” is in the context of literature critique? Traditional media, of paper and print, is perhaps one of the most mutable cultural landscapes out of there and I’m not sure where the professional critic – or even if there is such a thing – lives any more. I could name you a number of superb children’s literature academics – but I’d struggle to name a “professional” children’s literature reviewer. I read a host of individuals who review children’s literature but I struggle to read more than a couple of pages of the literary supplement in the newspaper.
Ultimately I think Harris’ piece is raising more questions than it’s answering – which is precisely what it should do. I can’t comment for the art of the ‘adult’ literature review, but what I can do is, if you’re looking for children’s literature reviews you can “trust” and “respect”, that you really have no need to worry.
There’s a world of superb, critically astute, technically brilliant, beautifully artful, passionate bloggers out there. The only thing we need to be concerned about is what happens when they all decide to stop.
And er, if you’ve got this far and coped with this moment of self-reflexivity, thank you. Here’s a Pikachu being awesome.