How to Disagree with a Book Blogger Without Becoming Disagreeable
In his November 30 review of Henderson’s Rotten Reviews Redux, for the Los Angeles Review of Books, William Giraldi took on book bloggers in a blatant attempt to stir up controversy in a too-often-stirred pot, and managed to generate little discussion (but a great new blog called Graffiti Reviews) from book bloggers who almost uniformly declined to link to his self-aggrandizing pronouncements, such as: “Literature to these online cabals is a social event and not an artistic endeavor; they congregate to swap recipes of cuisine no discerning person would ever care to eat. The idea that a novel can be garbage, and that a critic has the imperative to call it such, is anathema to their aspartame outlook….”
The problem with such a pronouncement, of course, is that critics like Giraldi take it for granted that other people need them to bless some books and curse others, because we’re just not bright enough to do it ourselves.
I think that the point of a review should be to provide further insight into the book.
As Book Blogger Buddies, Teresa from Shelf Love and I have been talking about ways to generate more disagreement in the comment section of our own book blogs. If we can take it for granted that book blogs are not about preening ourselves on how well we can judge “artistic endeavor” but are indeed a kind of social event for a group of people interested in generating more insight into the books we’re reading, then how can we liven up this party? How can we get past the shy stage of “I hardly know you so I don’t want to risk offending you” into the stage where we have revealed enough of our own perspective on a book (or poem) to seem open to other perspectives?