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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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01/29/2009

Comments

Abbeville

Human beings are and have always been relentlessly hierarchical, and the Internet will do nothing to change that. Exactly the same phenomenon as took place with print will take place with Internet literary culture. A few critics will rise to the top (through pure merit, flair for populist appeal, powerful connections, etc.) and audiences will begin to follow their judgments far more than the judgments of other critics. Likewise, certain books will "catch on," "go viral," or whatever phrase you prefer--either through their ability to gratify instantaneously (per Grossman) or through some other standard of quality, probably including genuine aesthetic merit. Reputations and fortunes will be made, and smaller cats will have as hard a time hunting with the big as they ever did.

Anyone who thinks of the Internet as an unhierarchical, gatekeeper-free medium should start his or her own blog and try to achieve a mass readership for it...then compare the results with those of a new blogger who just happens to be a close friend of Nick Denton, Arianna Huffington, the Pope, etc., etc.

LML

I think Abbeville's right about hierarchies. You and other first-wave bloggers have a serious leg up on new arrivals. The Sarvases and Newtons out there clearly drive mainstream literary-fiction sales (dwindling though those sales may be) to an already measurable degree. Scott Esposito has done a lot to raise the U.S. profile of writers like Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Adolfo Bioy Casares. There's a whole subset of bloggers whose taste in books seems directly adopted from Stephen Mitchelmore (not a bad reader to emulate, it's true). Tastemaking like this may represent a greater diversity of voices than that in the print venues of the last ten years, but it's still good old-fashioned tastemaking. (More admirable than in the print world, maybe, because, with a few exceptions, there's no real money in the balance.) Traffic patterns seem to indicate that the bloggers with influence are in a position to augment their influence considerably as book culture migrates more fully to the web. There is still time for new voices to gain influence, but I wonder how long that will remain true.

Schopenhauer's Bloody Knuckles

Grossman's anatomy seems to be too excited about "the web" to actually understand the internet; evolved internet "culture" is extremely sarcastic, if not hateful, focused on remixing pop culture images and phrases, and does not care at all about understanding or creating fiction/poetry/art on the level of a Goethe, Joyce, Stendhal, Lyotard, etc. The internet kidz play WoW and Counterstrike and Facebook, watch south park, colbert, and cartoon network (hence the inhereted sarcasm) and do not read Plato or Pindar and have no idea who Ben Jonson is. I would be mocked endlessly for saying someone still plays counterstrike outside of this context, probably along the lines of "olol ufag"

Outside of the "[lit]blogosphere" is the whole rest of the internet, where most interaction, via bbs, is done in a few lines of mock cell phone txting or mercilessly sarcastic remixed images, most often anime porn, god awful old movies, old video games, cliched movies/video games, classic movies/video games, and cult movies/video games. These are used not to stimulate thought, but to insult someone, which is almost the *entire point* of the internet, understood broadly.

Anyways, Grossman's article reeks of someone tacictly concerned and alarmed with the future of Literature, but who at the same time is conflicted and desires to keep up with the cool kids and thus has said to himself he will "maintain an open mind." (The cliche of a journalist, sickening even when typed!) If anything dissapears when the magazines/publishing houses finally go down, (and I'll be the first to grab a lyre) hopefully it is the carreerist cowardice that thrives in publishing and the media in general. This is not business. Literature is *ART*, SHED SOME BLOOD FOR IT!

Also, to discount the ability of "new blog voices" to gain reputation is to fall into the same error that print/traditional publishers did. If humanity is relentlessly hierarchical, then it is even more enfatuated with "the new." Let someone set up a blog with all the celebs and e-celebs backing and guest posting, and watch how the snipers come out to pick off the audience at first *in their own comment threads*, and then move in to melee with shotguns and chainsaws--a new trendy sight design and some anger(thereby becoming anti-celeb-celebs). Better yet, wait until the blogs start having site wars and crashing the "sold out" celeb sites.

The internet is not at all respectful of order and anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge can do dramatic things (the stupidity just factors how many times they can do it before getting caught). If, initially, the arbiter elegantiae mentality carries over into the Internet, it is no cause for fear; it seems to be in the nature of the universe that a thing strives, becomes established and respected, and then is overthrown and dies. Just be glad the "young bloggers" cant hack your genitals off and toss them in the water, or should that make us all sad, since then we would be without the beautiful and "laughter-loving" Aphrodite?

No one has ever been safe from a revolution. Ever.

Steven Augustine

Tend to agree with SBK here: this conversation is only "safe" in the narrowest, time-contingent context imaginable. What you know and love dies with you; 'twas ever so.

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