Attacks by "mainstream" press and literary figures against literary blogs have been appearing with some frequency lately. The most recent comes from Michael Dirda:
Every blogger wants to write a book. In fact, the dirty little secret of the internet is "Littera scripta manet"--the written word survives. A book is real, whereas cyberspace is just keystrokes--quickly scribbled and quickly forgotten. . .If you were an author, would you want your book reviewed in The Washington Post and The New York Review of Books--or on a website written by someone who uses the moniker NovelGobbler or Biografiend? The book review section, whether of a newspaper or a magazine, remains the forum where new titles are taken seriously as works of art and argument, and not merely as opportunities for shallow grandstanding and overblown ranting, all too often by kids hoping to be noticed for their sass and vulgarity. Should we allow our culture to descend to this playground level of discourse? . . .Newspapers sift, filter, and evaluate; they are responsible and strive to be trustworthy. So, too, do their book review sections. To curtail such coverage is to abandon an intellectual forum for a childish free-for-all. We would be shortchanging not only readers, but also the art, culture and scholarship of our time. Playgrounds, as we all remember, are ruled by bullies, loud-mouths and prima-donnas.
Apparently newspaper book review sections are suffering not because the reviews they publish increasingly go unread, or because the newspapers that sponsor them are being irresponsible in abandoning literary/cultural coverage that doesn't fill the financial coffers amply enough, but because of bloggers and their incessant scribbling, their blogs with funny names, and their goldarned "shallow grandstanding and overblown ranting," their "childish free-for-alls." (The word choice is telling. Free? For all? There goes the condo in Georgetown.) Presumably if bloggers hadn't come along and sucked all the air out of the room, the book review drudges would still be in there dutifully typing their 750 words and nobody would have been hurt.
That Dirda lets loose in this way suggests to me that he and his fellow ink-stained wretches really do think litblogs are threatening to make them obsolete. The twisted logic and the barely concealed rage (shared by many other anti-blog screeds) on display here is ever so revealing. Why lash out at the "kids" and their "sass and vulgarity" if they otherwise aren't worth taking seriously? Why focus exclusively on defending book reviewers from bloggers, rather than the bottom-line empty suits actually giving reviewers the ax, if you don't think the future probably does belong to the blogs? Playground bullies operate from a position of power, and it would appear that Dirda thinks litbloggers have seized it (and that he and his colleagues are victims.)
I have to say that the fury Dirda expresses in these comments takes me somewhat aback. I was under the impression that Dignified Critics such as himself mostly ignored litbogs, or at least that they didn't think real "book people" paid them much mind. I guess I was wrong. I guess literary weblogs have arrived, after all. Dirda's own "overblown ranting" only confirms it.
Oh, and the bit about how newspaper book review sections are the "forum where new titles are taken seriously as works of art." What a kidder.