Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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I think as long as they write as if the readers were fools, book reviewing (and criticism in any not strictly academic sphere) is doomed. Book section editors have become the lame-duck Presidents of our literary culture. They seem to have neither the will nor the vision, and questionably the insight, to provoke critics into excellent coverage.

Derek Catermole

Pool's point, which you need to consider seriously, is that editors also help turn bad prose into good. The editor's function is not only ideological, or whatever you choose to call it. Bloggers generally don't compete well with professionals because they write so poorly. Bloggers who condemn other writers for their bad prose have a special need to guard against that failing in themselves. Take this example, by Daniel Green, from The Quarterly Conversation (

"Unfortunately, the word I would have to use in describing Pamuk's fiction as a whole--excluding most of My Name is Red--is "ponderous." It lacks the comic vitality characterizing the best postmodern fiction, although Pamuk's intention to inject something of Western postmodernism into Turkish literature still seems a worthy and potentially interesting project. Finally, however, the attempt rarely rises above the lugubrious and heavy-handed. One might hope that Pamuk's future fiction will show him handling the task of adapting modernist and postmodernist literary strategies to his non-Western subjects with a somewhat lighter touch, but, having been rewarded for his work in its current form with the most prestigious literary prize available, one suspects that Orhan Pamuk will find few reasons to reconsider his approach."

Green's own prose is so unfortunately ponderous that I'd expect him to praise that quality in Pamuk's work.

Dan Green

Actually, parts of Pool's own book discuss the reasons why editors *don't* often "turn bad prose into good."

Derek Catermole

Fine, but you ought to address the real problem: you write very poorly and your judgments are vastly out of proportion to your capacities. You have no business presenting such harsh condemnations of work that you could not begin to improve on. Existing systems of publication, journalism, and critique may be restrictive, but they may not be restrictive enough. It is certainly not the case that there is nowhere for skilled writers to publish pretty much whatever kind of work they can craft. There just aren't many places and that's fine. That you appoint yourself a writer and critic does not entitle you to a public forum and a public hearing. You do need to earn it and you won't earn it by writing adolescent, semi-literate, and poorly formulated invective. Does the current system of public criticism suppress new writers? Ask Flannery O’Connor: “Not nearly enough of them.”


I enjoy this blog. I find the essays very thoughtful and intellectually provocative. Dan Green phrases his essays not in the flashy manner of a literary journalist or in the jargon-ridden manner of an academic but in the manner of an amateur, in the true, pure sense of that word--someone who genuinely, passionately loves the field he is writing about.

Derek Catermole

Oh, please. The idea that a passionate amateur has some greater and more authentic perspective on the object of his passion is a Romantic fairy tale. Professionals have just as much love as anyone else. And Dan Green writes in a manner that aspires to all kinds of flash. He just doesn't have the polish to reflect any light.

Dan Green

I can honestly say I aspire to no sort of "flash." If I have to choose between "ponderous" (which I'm also accused of being)and "flashy," I'll take the former.

Actually, I don't admit to "amateur" either. I have been paid for things I've written, and I am trained, and have worked, as an academic. That many academics no longer "love the field [they are] writing about" is certainly true, however.


Jacques Barzun has referred to himself as an amateur. John Updike, in his capacity as a book reviewer, is an amateur. Neither is a narrow specialist. I know that Dan Green has advanced degrees and has taught in universities, but, thank goodness, he doesn't write like an academic. I find his blog full of insights and carefully reasoned arguments of a sort I rarely encounter in other book-related blogs. His writing is clear, direct, unforced, unshowy. I look forward to his posts.


I think Dan Green writes quite well, if I do say so myself.

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