Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Who am I to criticise

The Booker Judge Sir Peter Stothard despairs of bloggers reviewing books. Bloggers being unreliable arbiters of quality are damaging literature. We should instead place ourselves in the hands for proper critics such as him. I presume he means himself as he is the editor of the Times Literary Supplement. I have to say that this stance is deluded and arrogant and fundamentally misses the point.
Most readers I would hazard do not find out about new writers by studiously studying reviews in the TLS, and never have. Most of us will hear about new books from friends and family. 'Have you read..' I really can't stand... Or we will happen upon it in a bookshop or at an airport. Or we will hear about it on a TV chat show.
For the more hardcore, we are members of book groups where we actively discuss what we are reading.
All these are probably more significant sources of influence than reviews by proper critics.
Maybe I don't hold literary criticism in high enough regard. Growing up reading the NME I learnt quickly that the views of music journalists were not exactly trust worthy. I have no evidence to suggest that literary critics are any wiser.
The rise of online reviews at Amazon and  bloggers has made the voice of the punter in the street visible to the likes of Sir Peter.  It is something he probably never had to consider before. But rather than a new pollutant in the pure waters of lit crit, it is an enduring feature of the landscape.