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Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Susan Wyndham's post on Undercover is titled 'The power of the blogerati'. It's a good one, and follows the recent "brawl" (her term) that exploded in the blogosphere after "an opinion piece [appeared] in London's Telegraph by British literary critic John Sutherland, who deplores the damage done by sloppy online book reviewers".

Sutherland wrote against book reviews by bloggers, then Susan Hill blogged for them, then Rachel Cooke in an article titled 'Deliver us from these latter-day Pooters' "handed out slaps to both Sutherland and Hill", says Wyndham. From Cooke's article:

Although Professor Sutherland is a very distinguished academic, lately his work has felt rushed and lazy. As at least one reviewer pointed out, his most recent book, How To Read a Novel: a User's Guide, is leprous with misquotations. As for Susan Hill, she has an output so prodigious it is practically incontinent. Look at her website if you don't believe me.

The Literary Saloon at the complete review was outraged by Cooke's attitude toward blogging reviewers (or reviewing bloggers — take your pick). One of those who she mentioned during her trawl through the balmier regions of the blogosphere (I'm showing my preferences here, I know), Kimbofo of Reading Matters, posted about it. She then posted again about a voluntary code of practice that is being mooted in Britain.

Simultaneously, in Australia, Tim Sterne posted on Sarsaparilla a hilarious monologue that fully takes the measure of 'official' intellectuals such as Sutherland and Cooke.

Then, one day, normal people started doing their own thinking and the two-tiered system of thinkers and thinkees began to crumble. At first professional thinkers laughed at these “amateurs”; non-professional thinking was “just a fad”, they reassured one another, and besides, people aren’t stupid, they know that when it comes to thinking you can only rely on the professionals. But the professional thinkers were wrong, and now non-professional thinking is threatening the status quo - and we professional thinkers don’t think much of that at all.

Sterne's tongue-in-cheek piss-take sums it all up nicely, and we wonder how much longer will be the legs on this particular critter that is scuttling, back and forth, across the blogosphere. As I sit here typing on my pine-wood desk I can reach out and pick up a can of Mortein's 'Insect Seeking' fly-spray ("kills fast", "odourless", "low-irritant"). With writers like Sterne on the watch, there's no need to pick it up. Once read, twice shy.

Wyndham's final word? "The solution is to read critically, even when you're reading reviews."

1 comment:

kathryn said...

Nice roundup, Dean.