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02/18/2010

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August

Referencing other reviews is completely forbidden in short-form newspaper reviews. I did it once (not realizing it was taboo; it was only my second published review, and I had no idea how newspapers worked, coming as I was from a purely academic background, where you're almost required to cite secondary sources). Those bits were cut, I got my hands smacked, and have never been able to get a paid reviewing gig at that paper again, despite them telling me they were otherwise very pleased with my ability.

Finn Harvor

The lot of the freelancer is a hard one indeed; a reminder that no labour-intensive-yet-poorly-paid deed goes unpunished. But if, in the early days of the Plastic Millennium, idealism is getting it in the neck from *all sorts* of directions, why not see the obvious? The world of print coverage is what it is, and, as has been pointed out repeatedly at this site, its trend toward plumbing and/or cut-backing the depths isn't going to change. Economics dictates this as much as anything else.

But -- and here's the fine point of it -- it's difficult to discern, I mean, really truly, how the blogosphere will do better.... I mean, yes, it will do better here and there, in patches and zones, but will it do better overall, qualitatively? I don't see that, and one reason why is I don't see a blogosphere that's in love with its own creative productions. Fade in on the pitiable figure of ThorAu, bent over his desktop while his eyes go and his hopes fade. What was it really all about, then, this lettered life, this life of the mind? Did he produce novels to … mainly get book-reviewing gigs? Did he become a writer to … mainly read? (And, o! The reading that sometimes was entailed; not being born on the right side of the parallel, ThorAu has had to keep up with the holy trinities of *several* national literatures: St. Munro, St. Atwood, St. Ondaatch ...St. Roth, St. DeLillo, St. Deaddike … Monsignor McEwan, Abbess Mantel, Pope Amis ... not to mention the zen masters of the East.)

Sure, the net offers the opportunity for more personal, more detailed criticism. However, as it does so, it still primarily aids and abets a publishing system that has become as insulated as a Tsarist bureaucracy.

ThorAu reaches for a smoke. No, he doesn't smoke. ThorAu reaches for a healthy munchie -- some raw cabbage hits the spot.

ThorAu lives his life, and writes his life and the life of those around him and those that preceded him, and all this is transcribed and dutifully saved with crematorial compactness by a hard-disk.

A friend visits.

"Was it worth it?"

"Sure. I did it for its own sake."

"But was it what you *wanted* it to be?"

The dry, defensive laugh of the disappointed. "*Who* gets things as they *wanted them* to be?"

"But people did, a few decades ago. I mean, people -- people like you, that is -- were at least offered a system of selection that made some kind of sense, that had some degree of fairness to it. I mean, there was a time when publishing houses, too, *read*."

"Publishing houses still read."

"But no one reads the productions of the publishing houses that read. That's the tragedy of it all. All people read nowadays is the Big Lists of the But Bigger Houses -- and they don't read ... they don't read the riff-raff, that is."

"Maybe, then, being part of the riff-raff is what I deserved."

"Yes, yes. But the crit-riff-raff might have at least shared their smokes -- I mean, chunks of cabbage -- with you those days you all huddled under bridge."

"What bridge is that?"

"You remember, the bridge,” ThorAu's friend insists. And at this point he points to the horizon, toward that fantastic construction that stretches from the mainland to the airport, and he says with complete and happy wonder, "the World Wide Bridge."

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