Newspaper book-review pages are going the way of the sestina and the villanelle. Is it utopian to hope that book bloggers, an unregulated bunch, can fill the cultural void? Skeptics claim blogs long ago lost their luster, back in the good old days, even though the word blog turned an impish ten years old just a few months ago.
Anecdotal Evidence and A Commonplace Blog asked a number of book bloggers to speculate about the past, present, and future of this youngest of literary genres. Their replies will be posted to Anecdotal Evidence and A Commonplace Blog over the next several days and (in most cases) cross-posted to the contributor’s own blog.
The symposiasts were asked nine questions to nudge them into reflection:
• What are the non-electronic precursors of book blogging?
• Who do you look toward for inspiration and models?
• How does book blogging differ from print counterparts such as book reviews?
• How do you respond to this statement?—Blogging is just another hobby, like stamp collecting or hockey.
• How has the experience of blogging changed the way you write?
• What about the sometimes vicious nature of the beast?—the ad hominem attacks, and the widespread tendency to confuse harsh disagreement with such ad hominem attacks.
• Some say the golden age of blogging has already passed, that blogging has failed to fulfill its early promise; and the evidence which is given is that no one becomes famous from blogging any longer. Do you agree?
• In a recent blog column, the technology writer Michael S. Malone suggests that a handful of bloggers have “earned huge audiences, while millions of others have not,” because readers have learned to trust the more popular bloggers “to either consistently entertain us, or we trust their judgment in selecting interesting items for us to read, or we trust that their world view is just like our own and their ability to enunciate those views even better.” Do you agree? Does this explain why no book blogger has earned a huge audience?
• Are book bloggers wise or foolish to include political commentary?
At the end of the symposium, D.G. Myers and I will offer our own reflections on the subject, summarizing, synthesizing, and perhaps even drawing up a manifesto for bloggers–think of it as a sestina or maybe a villanelle—who wish to join us in storming the gates of literary culture.
We hope our readers will join the conversation by adding their comments, criticisms, gripes, insults, congratulations, proposals, propositions, rejections, and giggles. And we hope you look forward as much as we do to reading and discussing our symposiasts’ ideas on The Function of Book Blogging at the Present Time. The first contribution, from Walter Aske of Elberry’s Ghost will be posted at Anecdotal Evidence later this morning.