Book Help Web


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More from the L.A. Times

As a follow-up to yesterday, here is the link to the L.A. Times writer who has such contempt for blogging. Part of what he touches upon is the difference between a critic and a reviewer--but even then he seems to dismiss out of hand all blogging as simply nattering.

But I'll let him speak for himself:
Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author's (or filmmaker's or painter's) entire body of work, among other qualities.

Opinion — thumbs up, thumbs down — is the least important aspect of reviewing. Very often, in the best reviews, opinion is conveyed without a judgmental word being spoken, because the review's highest business is to initiate intelligent dialogue about the work in question, beginning a discussion that, in some cases, will persist down the years, even down the centuries.


  • I have to say I agree with much of what he says. That's the entire premise of why I built the Help Web -- subject matter experts who could filter through products and services and make solid recommendations.

    We have a friend who helps run a business subscribing to the "wisdom of crowds" feature. His argument, also valid, is that if 600 people review the new Harry Potter book and 500 like it, the book is "good" or "worthy of your attention" or whatever. That holds true provided the raters hold roughly equivalent skills and knowledge. When they don't, bias creeps in.

    At the Help Web, we have a film student with a theater background writing Movie Reviews, a jeweler who owns her own business covering jewelery, a former banker covering finance and here at Book Help Web, an author and editor.

    I prefer our expert reviews. Others prefer numbers. When both align, it's a beautiful thing. When they don't align, you may end up with a critical favorite that doesn't do well commercially or its inverse, a commercial smash the critics hate.

    Nothing wrong with either take there either, but it's worth knowing both positions.

    By Anonymous George, at 10:08 AM  

  • I like our expert reviews as well. What I found strange was that the L.A. Times writer would immediately discount a critic or reviewer simply because of his or her publishing medium. It is this sort of attitude that is threatening the print media and keeping them from adapting to changes.

    Now, granted, I don't review in a blog either, but that's partly because I'm from a traditional print background. Blogs really are more for conversation. Our reviews are a different story (and yes, they are reviews, not critiques for the most part). Where I think the L.A. OpEd piece has it wrong is in the assumption that a person who publishes exclusively online lacks the credentials of his print colleagues.

    He may wish instead to look to conditions in the newsroom and the constant cutting back in news space for reasons why serious reviewers are no longer looking to print as "the" place to publish.

    Certainly newspapers have done a good job in recent years of training their readers not to read them.

    By Blogger Book Help Web Editorial Team, at 10:07 AM  

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