Today’s New York Times features an article about the losses of book reviewers at newspapers across the country, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution being the latest casualty (it recently eliminated its book editor position). The LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle have also recently reduced the amount of ink devoted to books … and all you local readers of the Union-Tribune‘s already tiny book section may have noticed that your favorite freelance reviewers aren’t getting as many gigs as they used to.
While I agree that this trend is indeed “yet one more nail in the coffin of literary culture,” I also think blogs are fantastic, and that for writers, these bloggers are our friends — our very good friends. They can get an author quite a bit of mileage for many reasons, among them the fact that many emerging writers don’t get reviewed by major newspapers at all, as well as the fact that bloggers have a reach that goes well beyond those who buy books based on reviews alone. And, as the Times points out, “while authors and publishers may want long and considered responses to their work, sometimes what they most need is attention.”
As disheartening as it is to read about decreasing coverage of the literary arts, this debate is entertaining to read, from blogger Edward Champion, who told the Times that “literary blogs responded to the ‘often stodgy and pretentious tone’ of traditional reviews” to Richard Ford, who, though he’s never read a literary blog, said, “Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership…in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.”
And if you visit Champion’s blog, on which he has posted a photo of a basement in Terre Haute, you’ll see that the debate continues…