Monday, July 30, 2007

Not again ...

... Sven Birkerts weighs in on the print versus online discussion and finds himself Lost in the blogosphere. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Birkerts cites Cynthis Ozick:
What is needed," Ozick writes, "is a broad infrastructure, through a critical mass of critics, of the kind of criticism that can define, or prompt, or inspire, or at least intuit, what is happening in a culture in a given time frame. . . . In this there is something almost ceremonial, or ceremoniously slow: unhurried thinking, the ripened long (or sidewise) view, the gradualism of nuance."
To which I would respond: Nothing is stopping anybody from being unhurried in their thinking, letting their views ripen, so that no nuance is released before its time - and posting the results online when they feel ready to. Just because the Web allows one to do things quickly doesn't mean that everything done there must be done quickly. As a matter of fact, it is those of us in print media who face the tighter deadlines. As I have said before, newspapers' cutting back on book coverage will do more harm to newspapers than it will to criticism or reviewing.
Ed Champion has some thoughts, too: Sven Birkerts and “Literary Life”


  1. Another member of the print world eager to protect his place. Another MSM insider predicting doom, again. [yawn]

    The thing is, all the words about how "blogging won't save our literary culture" are true. "Our" culture? As if I was ever included in the Boston Globe's definition of "our" culture. As if the amateurs screwing up Mr. Keen's idea of culture were ever included by him. The forgotten have found a way to a voice. The culture changes. The self-interested whine in fear.

    The literary culture doesn't need saving. "Our" literary culture, the one that treats the little guy as a herd animal to be manipulated, that treats him as a member of a cult of amateurs too stupid to deserve even a shred of respect, that treats him as six-pack Max who should be grateful for their high and well educated, self-interested, opinions isn't worth saving. That's what Sven Birkerts is really squealing about. Someone moved his cheese and he's too lazy to search for it elsewhere. So he sees it as the end of the world as he knows it. And it is.


  2. I pretty much agree, Blue.

  3. Frank, I like your response very much: Indeed, nothing makes us hurry, if we don't need to or want to. In fact, I started my Blogspot blog primarily as a virtual holding tank for various essays and other pieces that I wanted to rewrite, have a place for, edit, and consolidate. I don't post a piece till I've revised it, although many of them began as shorter pieces elsewhere. I find the blogosphere very congenial for slow, wise, measured thinking—in the right company, of course.

    Blue, I agree with your comments, too. I think you've nailed it pretty well.

    This also leads back into Frank's earlier coining of the phrase "the pornography of despair" which I've been thinking about a lot: every time there's a change in the cuture, technology, or media, we get these doomsayers crying that it's the end of all things. I'm a little disappointed in Birkerts for this move, because his previous thinking on media, publishing, and how techonological change affects publishing was pretty wise. Indeed you're correct: it IS the end of the world as he knows it. But so many forget that the end of world is always the beginning of a new one, too. As Eliot wrote, "In my end is my beginning."

  4. Anonymous9:19 PM

    Great points, Frank -- I found them as I was looking for additional blogs to link to in my own response to Birkerts's story.