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How about naming some names, so your readers can go and examine these blogs for themselves?


Hi Dan,

I admit I, too, would like to know who you're referring to - not out of any desire to stoke flames or toss punches, but to get a sense of these sites. I restrict myself almost entirely to strictly literary blogs (I'm kinda tunnel visioned in my obsessions), so I'm wondering do you mean guys like Andrew Sullivan, and Mickey Kaus?

I find your judgment to be terribly sound, and I share your politics, so I would be curious to survey these sites myself. I understand the impulse to not start silly little flame wars (which often can happen) but I think smart, curious readers are going to want to check these sites out.



I agree although I consider myself a moderate, which I take to mean 1) listening for new ideas I want to steal/believe in, 2) challenging other's people's ideas that seem flawed in part or whole.

The challenge to politics seems important to me on a sociological scale. Not everyone has the ability to see past the literary tricks, so to speak.


I'm less concerned with tracking down the so-called conservative bloggers than I am in understanding what you'd like to see from (liberal? conservative?) literary weblogs. As I understand from previous posts, you started "The Reading Experience" in order to fill just this gap in the literary blogosphere, and, in this post, are calling for others to join you in making thoughtful responses to literature and literary criticism (such as it is) as you do on this site.

That said, beyond what I can gather from the example of your site, I'd like to see you articulate your ideal with some specificity to help me understand it better. You say the current slew of literary sites are the best thing going in literary debates, but you want more. You want them to value the reading and experiencing of literature (unlike the conservatives) but without using literature as a wedge for spouting their own political beliefs (unlike the liberals). What would such an undertaking look like, what would be discussed in such a sphere, how would that further the cause of literature itself (if one can even speak of such a thing)?

Perhaps I'm merely wondering if you're calling for a new, vibrant form of online literary criticism, centered on the enjoyment of literature rather than some theoretical concern.

Daniel Green


The last thing you said.

The literary weblogs are one of the few places where any literary discussion is going on at all. As we know, the major book review in the U.S. wants to do even less of this than it does now, only a few magazines print extended literary criticism, and academic journals presently accomplish little more than encouraging what few readers they have to despise literature.

I'd only want the literary weblogs, as well as other online sites, to understand that what they are already mostly doing is an important thing to do. I'll not go so far as to say it could "save" literature, but it could help to revitalize honest-to-goodness literary criticism.


Thanks for answering my question, but that raises another for me. Perhaps I can only ask this because I've lived in such paltry times, but what is the value of literary criticism? I've never understood how literary criticism is supposed to enhance the experience of reading, how it benefits either literature itself or the readers of literature.

Daniel Green

T.S. Eliot: "It is merely that the practitoners [of criticism] have clarified and reduced to a state of fact all the feelings that [a reader] can only enjoy in the most nebulous form; the dry technique implies. . .all that [the reader] thrills to; only that has been made into something precise, tractable, under control. That, at all events, is one reason for the value of the practitioner's criticism--he is dealing with facts, and he can help us do the same."

John Dewey: "We lay hold of the full import of a work of art only as we go through in our own vital processes the processes the artist went through in producing the work. It is the critic's privilege to share in the promotion of this active process. His condemnation is that he too often arrests it."

kevin holtsberry

I have wrestled with this issue myself. I separated my "political and cultural blog" from my book blog to try and deal with the books I am reading away from the partisan battle to a degree. I am not really a literary person as such, however, but simply someone who loves to read. What I have found interesting and somewhat frustrating is the overall liberal leaning of the popular literary weblogs. I suppose Terry Teachout is the exception that proves the rule. Almost every literary weblog I read regularly takes smarmy pot shots at President Bush.

I have consciously made an effort to rediscover literature by reading classic novels and more recent critically acclaimed novels. I did this because I felt I was missing something if I didn't explore this world. I don't know much about you but what I have read so far is of value. Those of us who were turned away from literature because of bad teachers and/or bad theory and intimidating language need someone to lead us back to the love of great literature. To tie this art to our lives and culture; to explain why it is important. Perhaps you can speak to both literary types and those seeking to learn more.

Steve of Splinters/In Writing

Oh, it is a terrible, terrible thing when President Bush has "smarmy pot shots" taken at him by "liberal" literary critics.

Personally, I resent being labelled a liberal.

But perhaps one has to be a "liberal" to notice Bush's lies and the tens of thousands bodies in their wake. No wonder Mr Collected Miscellany disapproves. Quick, cover your ears, get back to "classic novels"!!

Bill Peschel

Googling the quote in the above post will lead you to one of the conservative bloggers being analyzed here. The author was referring to the difficulties he faces in approaching a work like "Crime and Punishment" a book that can take weeks to read, and has to be re-read to be savored.

kevin holtsberry

Thanks for the mature and thoughful response Steve. I was simply trying to add what my experience has been. If you don't like my perspective feel free to never read my blog. I'll make sure to never label you a liberal. How's asshole sound instead?


You seem oddly surprised to have made the discovery that, for most people at least, the political is personal, and vice versa.

It's only all the people clamoring about "bias" these days that would have you believe things can be otherwise.

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