Girls & Comics
Eustace Tilley Looks at Picture Books

Latter Day Pooters, Unite!

For a snide summary of a literary dust-up in Great Britian, I send you to Rachel Cooke's essay "Deliver us from these latter-day Pooters," in the Guardian. The snark factor makes it highly entertaining, with Cooke heaving insults at book blogs right and left. Rachel Cooke, a non-Pooter* herself, writes, " much of the stuff you read in the so-called blogosphere is so awful: untrustworthy, banal and, worst of all, badly written."

* In need of a Pooter tutorial, I turned to Wikipedia and its entry for the comic novel Diary of a Nobody, by George Grossmith.

With thanks to Mental Multivitamin for the link to the Guardian piece.


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This was a very interesting article, and I agree with a lot of it. Especially the part about great critics and the need for them to be published in major papers and journals. I read as many of them as I can in as many places as possible.

I do, however, have 3 points:

1) Most regional newspapers no longer have book coverage, so many people do not have access to book reviews.
2) The point about "TBR pile" and other personal asides is well taken, but isn't the freedom to write whatever you'd like the point of blogs?
3) Book coverage in the major papers and journals has moved increasingly towards reviews of non-fiction. I have to say, I'm not particularly interested in non-fiction, especially biography. I want to read about new fiction, including fiction in translation. The fact that reviews of fiction have decreased greatly in the past few years is not the fault of critics nor is it due to some mythical ascendance of bloggers. That's the fault of newspapers and journals and their looking for ways to increase revenue.

I do sympathize with professional critics. Venues for publication are decreasing and I think it's easy to see the blogosphere as responsible for that. Unfortunately, I don't think they're related. I never thought of NYT or WaPo coverage when beginning my blog. I simply wanted to talk about children's book with like-minded folk.

Make that "children's books."

Kelly, good points. I loved the phrase "latter day Pooters" and plan to use it as often as I can. (as evidenced in my post...)

The way I understand it, book critics have less room in the papers because book sections have been cut back because advertsing revenue is down, way down. The blogs didn't cause it, but the Internet contributed. Think of how much classified job advertising a paper like the NY Times used to get--a whole huge Sunday section of its own is now gone, thanks to sites like

Rachel Cooke seemed to be looking at blogs without a thought about who their audiences are. Or she assumed their audience was the same one who would read Nick Hornsby. (His book sounds great, by the way.) I think you have to know your blog just like you'd know your critic. If Michiko Kakutani reviews something well, I know I'll probably like it; after umpteen years reading her work, I know that now. I like reading mainstream critics' work, too, and would never want it to disappear. But when someone misses the mark in the newspaper, I might comment on that.

The Nick Hornsby book is good. However, it's a compilation of his columns for The Believer. I have to wonder just how many people read that magazine and see his criticism.

Critics are important to the literary world, but that's a rather insulated group. I question how much they matter to the world at large. Books that are well regarded by critics are not necessarily big sellers, and, of course, bestsellers are often not highly regarded by critics.

My point being, the public--the group that really buys and reads books--doesn't really care that much about literary critics. They probably don't care that much about literary bloggers, either. If the truth were told, we're probably a closed group all reading each others blogs.

There's nothing for Rachel Cooke to worry about.

Gail, I think you're onto something. The public doesn't care squat about literary critics; you're right. It's kind of cool, though, that an unlikely medium, TV, has sold so many books. I'm thinking of Oprah.

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