Just Another Opinion

The annual Man Booker Prize usually manages to stoke up some sort of controversy; sometimes it’s an argument about the lowering of literary standards or in other years it’s about elitism.  Strong views are expressed, commentators grow tetchy with each other and then the prize winning book is announced and everyone goes quiet again; until the following year.  The good thing about these annual flare ups is that it generates discussion, and debates about books advances up the news agenda a couple of notches.

This year, however, the pompously controversial comments by the Chair of the Booker judges have been about the quality of the debate about books on the internet; broadly, book bloggers are, apparently, harming literature.  That’s just the sort of statement that makes me roll my eyes heavenwards and say something offensive about academics and vested interests before turning the page.

Fortunately for you Isabel Costello’s Literary Sofa had a more rational response, pointing out that blogging about books is just another way of having a conversation about books; and if you’re looking for a reason for the narrowing and increasingly conservative range of books that are  currently published by mainstream publishers, bloggers certainly aren’t the ones to blame.

I don’t know whether it was coincidence then that I read Lyn Gardner‘s blog in the Guardian in which she advocates the wider writing of theatre reviews, offering hints and tips on how to approach such pieces, the most important of which are to go to as much theatre as you can, and to  express your own opinion, not what you think you should say, about the particular  theatrical experience.

Which rational person doesn’t read a variety of reviews of any art work in which they’re interested?  By reading across differing opinions at both ends of the spectrum, the 1 stars as well as the 5 stars, it’s possible to make your own judgement about what you’d like to try for yourself.  You also get to know with whom you generally agree.  For example, I know that if the Guardian or Time Out give a movie a good review, I’m bound not to like it; whereas a good review for a play in the same publications is a fairly reliable indication that I’ll enjoy the evening.

So, because it’s my choice, Lyn Gardner’s is the view on blogging reviews to which I’m going to listen.

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  1. Hi Rowena, thanks for the link to my post and glad you found it of interest. I hadn’t come across the Lyn Gardner piece but (and what else would I say?) I think her attitude is by far the more enlightened of the two, not least because she doesn’t call for a reversal to past times when critics were the only ones with a voice. No amount of whining about bloggers is going to stop us, if anything the opposite applies!

    • Exactly! I was pleased to find Lyn Gardner’s piece as it’s so much more in the spirit of supporting conversations about plays and literature, and the encouragement of diversity in debate, rather than the pomposity of the a blanket dismissal of whole category of commentators.

  2. Always something new to learn when I catch up, Rowena – if only that the Booker’s are out and I must find out who … and go to see what on earth bloggers have to do with lowering the standards of literature in English – what some people won’t say to get into print!

    • Thanks. I’ve not read any of the short list yet, but what is good to see is that there are a couple published by very small publishers, so there is hope that diversity will survive through the homogenisation of the output of the big companies.

      • The Wanderlust Gene

         /  October 14, 2012

        The press release made a big thing of that point, Rowena. I’m hopeful that the increasing number of ‘colonial’ writers will help there too.

        I’ve made a list and am off to our bookshop tomorrow – lets hope they’ll have some of them, though I see some are out on Kindle editions (though not the Hilary Mantel, which is the one I’m most excited to read, I adored Wolf Hall!) so I do have a fallback – I’m still on the fence about Kindle – I do like browsing through a real book … 🙂

      • I’d be interested in hearing how you get on with them. I really struggled with Wolf Hall, so the sequel is fairly low down on my list of priorities.

      • The Wanderlust Gene

         /  October 16, 2012

        I’m devastated to hear Wolf Hall didn’t grab you 😦 I’m off to the bookshop this morning – very exciting!

      • Oh no, we can still be friends can’t we?! I hope the book shop trip was profitable.

      • We’ve got our fingers crossed for an order …. 🙂

        Of course we can still be friends – but did you see who won? This might be a challenge, Rowena?

      • Yep. Hilary Mantel got the nod again for the sequel. I’ve relented and put Bring Out the Bodies on the To Read list, but it’s a long list……!

      • I won’t hold my breath then, to hear what you think! But I’ll want to know …

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