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OutOfContext

I recently watched F for Fake, Orson Welles' disjointed movie on Clifford Irving, Elmyr de Hory, and art forgery. In it he quotes Kipling:
When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”

Mike Schilling

Editor: Oh, right. So he's written three books about this sportswriter? It's a trilogy? Like Lord of the Rings.

Lance: Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Ralph Hitchens

This skepticism of the blogosphere evidenced by the literati (and much of the mainstream news media as well) will pass in time. I still read the Washington Post and some other inky pubs, but more & more of what I learn is from online sources, mainly blogs. Even a great novelist may not recognize a sea change when he's in the midst of one.

Karen

What these "credentialed" folk don't seem to gather is that, yes, most bloggers start as someone sitting in their basement--or wherever their computer is located--and sending a lot of words into the void. Some of those people are philistines and some of them are highly-educated and some of them are neither, but still possessed of a keen eye and an expressive turn of phrase and a great deal of insight.

And the ones who are philistines--the ones who can't really spell and have nothing interesting to say--well, for the most part no one really reads their stuff anyway, so it doesn't really matter. They're doing it for themselves and when their comments section remains empty for month after month maybe they'll stop.

The ones who have talent and insight will build word-of-mouth and all sorts of people will read their work and eventually they'll find themselves quoted, perhaps, by the Credentialed Elite.

It's the market--just as it was the market that got the C.E. where they ended up. It's just a different medium.

But it's foolish to disregard these folks. If Ken Levine wants to write a blog in which he talks about TV and movies, then dammit I'm going to read what he has to say because he's been in the business and may have insights that the average "professional" critic doesn't have. And if Josh Marshall wants to write about politics, and to continue hammering away at an obscure story about some odd U.S. attorney firings, which he only stumbled onto because of his earlier obsession with the ill-doings of a certain San Diego congressman, and if he's doing solid investigative work that also calls upon the input of his readers, and then that story ends up potentially bringing down the Attorney General of the United States once the "professionals" decide to pick it up--well, then I'm going to continue to read Josh Marshall, too.

It's the market, stupid. It rules us all.

Tom W.

Good piece. I would just add that our whole effort at newcritics.com (including your generous contributions, Lance) is a massive refutation of the higher-than-thou critics shelf.

Though I do like Ford's latest - indeed, reviewed it on the citizen-powered newcritics right here:
http://newcritics.com/blog1/2007/01/13/richard-fords-jesus-of-suburbia/

Rana

these blogophobes only prove their own ignorance by missing the fact that a whole lot of highly accomplished people blog, people who have credentials and resumes that make holders of simple BAs in journalism look like a pitiful pack of underachieving goof-offs

I and my three degrees are applauding. *wink*

On a more serious note, I think what has these people disturbed is that increasingly the gatekeepers that they relied upon to tell them what (and who) to take seriously and what (and who) to ignore are unable to fulfill this function.

Instead, it's incumbent on the individual reader (or journalist, or whomever) to read the opinion or argument being presented, think about it, and come to his or her own conclusion. No longer can one get away with simply taking stuff at face value "just because" Big Name said it was important. Nor can Big Name simply spout off the opinion of the day and have it received as gospel truth; readers are more demanding, and sloppy, unsupported ideas are rightly disparaged, regardless of whether they issue from Big Name or Joe "Basement" Schmoe.

The days of the well-paid sinecures for Big Names are on their way out, and I for one approve.

tdraicer

Lance, I agree with you.

But to be fair, Schickel has done some excellent tv documentaries on the "Golden Age of Hollywood" and reportedly (I haven't read them) some good books on the subject as well. OTOH his movie reviews in Time are certainly nothing special.

sfmike

Richard Schickel is pretty much the definition of a Mainstream Hack and his drearily dull observations and would-be insights, not to mention his extremely boring aesthetic sense and deadly dull essays/books, have been one of the sadder layers of banality we've all been wading through in American culture for close to 40 years. I'm glad the bloggers irritate him, because the old fart has been irritating me all my life.

Richard Ford's novels have never tempted me into actually reading one of them, by the way, and after this absurd outburst, it's much easier to ignore him altogether.

Kevin Wolf

As a blogger, I obviously think it's a mistake to simply write off the value of blogging for every possible writer and reader. That Ford and Schickel so easily dismiss the whole idea that you might run across something of value on a blog shows they've not put a lot of time or thought into their (elitist) positions.

As a fan of Pauline Kael, I think critics can have a valuable role in parsing works of art and shaping the consensus on such ongoing questions as, But is it Art? That doesn't mean they should make pronoucements from a throne, it means they should be engaging bloggers -- and anyone else who will join -- in a discussion about the merits of particular works and the larger questions they may evoke.

Schickel is the very defintion of middlebrow. He should hardly be pointing fingers.

Linkmeister

There are real-life authors who actually blog on a fairly regular basis, so some of them seem to get it.

I just found Susan Wittig Albert yesterday after reading a couple of her mystery novels. She writes about lots of things, including her gardening.

Vir Modestus

Glenn Greenwald, writing at Salon.com (in too many articles to link them all) details how the punditocracy is having the same issues with bloggers as Ford and Schickel are having. It would seem the old guard doesn't know how to maintain relevancy in the face of the new media. Which is too bad. Time's circulation may be good, but it is no longer great (and like most print media, probably falling). Time has a finite number of readers, approximately the same number as the circulation, and a limited time in which any review is relevant. Blogs like this stay out there forever and have a potentially unlimited readership.

Good thing is, those who don't adapt will fade away. Schickel who?

burritoboy

I don't know if Schickel and Ford are totally wrong. It probably would be better if we could get our criticism through better vetted (and better paid) printed sources. But Schickel and Ford don't seem to understand that American intelligensia has almost entirely moved into the universities, and, by this point, it would be more honest if our news media finally admitted what they really are and started printing pornography (hey, the world's leading "newsman" is someone who precisely did that - Murdoch).

Little magazine are just now blogs. Cahiers de Cinema would now be started online.

stinger

When did "lie of the land" turn into "lay of the land"? (The land is not acting upon anything else, so the verb is a form of the intransitive "to lie", not the transitive "to lay".)

To answer my own question, probably about the time "sneaked" turned into "snuck".

Campaspe

"Cahiers de Cinema would now be started online."

Yup.

Bianca Reagan

It's always sad when you realize you're losing the privilege you once had but never fully appreciated. Now that the onslaught of the internet has all but demolished the barriers to entry into the world of critics, Schnickel and Ford might be wondering, after all these years of writing, if they are truly talented or just lucky to have been chosen by the powers that be. My guess is, probably both. There have always been many brilliant writers, and skilled critics. But not all of them were given the opportunity to showcase their abilities. Now that practically anyone can get their words read online, if they attract enough attention, Schnickel and Ford have a lot more competition.

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