The first complaint might very well be true; I tend not to be terribly interested in who publishes what I am interested in, so long as there are plenty of interesting things to read. And at this point, there are still far more interesting books published in a year than I can possibly read. The second complaint is unassailably true: Americans, and American publishers, don't seem interested in translated works. Hurezanu's statistics, that less that 1% of books published in America were written in a language other than English, does not speak well of our attention to and education about the rest of the world. (I would be surprised, though, if this is a particularly new trend, equal, say to the dizzying change in publishing technology that is giving the whole industry vertigo.)
But it's the third observation that really irks Hurezanu, that book blogging seems poised to be the dominant mode of book discussion going forward. Actually, it's not even this: it's who she thinks the book bloggers are and what motivates them that elicits remarkable disdain:
At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter. As far as I could tell, I was the only person at the convention who doesn’t tweet. All these 20-year-old bloggers form a community that is replacing the traditional book reviewers; they know each other, read each other’s blogs and blog about the same books. So, in a paradoxical way, this subculture is even more limited in its interests than the mainstream media. Though, in theory, the Internet is a space of infinite diversity, in practice many communities reproduce the patterns that exist outside cyberspace. The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing.Let's leave aside all the counterexamples to this characterization (your humble primate perhaps the least of them) for the moment to what it is about "book bloggers" that galls her so: the constellation of gender, age, class, and interests. The demotion of 20-year-olds to girls and the dimunition of women who work from home to "mommies" are difficult to see as anything but a particularly insidious form of sexism.
This intial dismissal makes the next insult possible, that bloggers are "children" who have wandered, however mistakenly, from Beverly Hills 90210 to Jane Austen. By this point, the well as been contaminted, so that even technology she doesn't use or understand becomes part of the problem, the slide from "Twitter" to "chatter" here might rhyme, but her conflation ignores one of the amazing aspects of online literary discourse: community and discoverability. (The graphic accompanying the piece, showing a cartoon bird typing on a laptop above the caption, "another great critical mind at work," would be laughable if it weren't so sad.)
My initial temptation was to ignore this piece and avoid giving it any further attention. But I realized that the attitude that Hurezanu expresses here comes from the same source that gave rise to book blogging: prejudice against certain kinds of readers and certain kinds of books. She is invested in the functioning of a certain kind of critical establishment and book blogging is a direct threat to that establishment, a threat on par with the threat digital publishing poses to print.
So this is my takeaway--book bloggers, even the twenty-year olds among us, should not be insulted by this reaction, they should rejoice in it, for it means that we have the bastards on the run.
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