THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BLOGGY….In a short post today, John Quiggin rips into William Skidelsky, deputy editor of the British Prospect, for saying some negative things about bloggers. The subject is the much-mooted decline of book reviewing, and one of the things Skildesky says is this:

Lively literary websites — or online magazines with literary sections — do exist, especially in the US: Salon, Slate, the Literary Saloon. But blogging is best suited to instant reaction; it thus has an edge when it comes to disseminating gossip and news. Good criticism requires lengthy reflection and slow maturation. The blogosphere does not provide the optimal conditions for its flourishing.

This actually piqued my interest enough to read Skildesky’s entire essay, and basically I came away wondering, again, if we bloggers are a wee bit too thin-skinned sometimes. As it turns out, literary blogging occupies only a small part of Skildesky’s essay, and in any case he has both good and bad things to say about it — along with good and bad things about the rest of the literary criticism community. What’s more, regarding the short excerpt John quotes, Skildesky is right, isn’t he? There’s some good long-form work in the blogosphere, both literary and otherwise, but generally speaking it’s hardly an insult to point out that most blogging is reactive and quickly produced.

Endless battles to the contrary, it’s never a matter of one medium being better than another, it’s a matter of acknowledging and using the strengths and weaknesses of various mediums. TV is good at images; newspapers are good at daily news; magazines are good at long-form journalism; and blogs are good at quick reaction and two-way conversation. In fact, Skildesky himself puts it pretty well:

In the end, though, the squabbles between literary journalists and bloggers miss the point. While both parties have cast themselves as adversaries in a pressing contemporary drama, they really are (or should be) allies in a more important battle — for literature itself, and its right to be taken seriously. The significance of this struggle makes the differences between them trivial.

Quick, chatty reaction to news and books is a specialized form that some people are good at and some people aren’t. Ditto for longer form journalism and book reviewing. And both have their place. So what’s all the fuss about?

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