This article feels as if it was generated by the Slate Contrarian Bot circa 2005. In Bookriot, a librarian (and aspiring author) says she thinks that tagging authors in all discussions of their books, including negative ones, is a great idea!
I can understand why some authors might be hurt by negative reviews. Criticism is hard! I’m just not convinced that the “risk” outweighs the “benefit” here. Easy access to more information on authors is important to me and authors are not required to read reviews. Most books don’t fall within categories that are strictly positive or negative. If we lean toward caution and decide against tagging authors in negative reviews, we can’t tag authors at all—it’s rare that any review worth anything doesn’t mention anything that hasn’t gone well in a book. In that case, authors are losing out on additional potential readers.
Is this a huge deal? Absolutely not. If it was, I’d go on with tagging authors regardless of the kind of reviews I write. But I do think it’s worth considering who the reviews are for, at the end of the day.
This is a bad argument. As many, many Twitter responses and some site commenters are letting Bookriot and the author know. However, given that she seems to be one of the site’s most active contributors, and the content maw is never sated, I’m sure it’s not the last #slatepitch piece we’ll see with the same byline. Sigh.
UPDATE: The post is still up on Bookriot, but the original Bookriot tweet publicizing it, which so many people replied to (and probably ratioed badly) is gone. Which … is kind of missing the point?
I posted a link to Christian Lorentzen’s Harper’s essay on the demise of book reviewing a while back, and now LitHub has
used it to generate more content published a roundup of responses from his fellow critics. They run the gamut from complete disagreement (mostly by critics who run or work in these listicle- and Q&A-dominated sections) to overall agreement (from a critic at the TLS, which is hardly a surprise).
This is at best not addressing his points at all, and at worst confirming them:
Are book reviews drying up? Is the world of serious criticism shrinking? It seems to me that, actually, the world of book reviews is expanding. There are readers everywhere, of all kinds. They all deserve to know what books are out there that might be of interest. We do our best to reach them all.
And you’ll be shocked, shocked to find out that I agree with this:
Lorentzen attributes the uptick in “review inflation” to the commercial pressures that push critics to become recommendation-machines, emitting low-level keens of positivity like elevators blasting background Muzak. One thing he omits is how we, denizens of the industry, are also failing each other. The self-promotion we are all-but forced to practice is partially the fault of a world in which we compete for pittances, but angry critics on Twitter play no small role in forcing consensus.
There’s no fix for Lorentzen’s on-target criticisms (and he does have them) as long as reviews are less interesting to readers, and therefore less Liked And Shared, than other kinds of content.
Readers of the blog know that I am a big sports fan and that my footie team is Liverpool. Many other footie fans loathe the thought of Liverpool winning the Premier League, which they haven’t done since 1990 (AKA before the Premier League was the Premier League). It’s in large part because they see Liverpool fans as thinking they’re super-special, which is always and understandably annoying. But this article gets at some of the reasons for the tight bond between the team and its fans, especially the centrality of the Hillsborough tragedy and the decades-long struggle to gain justice for the dead and injured.
“But Liverpool are saying: ‘We’re not going to lose sight of the fact this is also people’s passion.’ It’s getting that balance between the bankers and rip-off merchants and the belief of those who truly support the game. I honestly believe we have this realisation that big economic gain brings community-based responsibility. Any club which denies that will be left behind. Klopp gets it. Guardiola gets it. Van Dijk, Salah, Robertson and all those young men I met get it. Sterling gets it. Look at his very strong gesture in paying for all those children from his old school to go to a match at Wembley. In the same breath he uses his position to condemn racism. That make this title race feel like a new era.”
Alexander-Arnold is 50 years younger than Scraton. He is only 20 but, alongside Robertson and Van Dijk, he helps Liverpool supply three of the four defenders in the PFA’s Premier League team of the season. After training at Melwood he nods intently when I ask whether he had been touched by Scraton’s talk. “Massively. We’d never come close to hearing them sorts of stories, and what it must have been like for the families on that tragic day. It was good they were able to educate the players because it’s important we know why that number is on our shirt. We’re playing in memory of those 96, and everyone involved in Hillsborough.”
Liverpool won its last English championship right after Hillsborough, but then it went through some bad seasons, to put it mildly (that’s when I became a fan). Through that, the coaches, players, fans, and residents of Liverpool were also dealing with Hillsborough. It’s the one event that brings the Everton and Liverpool clubs and fans together on every anniversary, and why Everton supports the Sun newspaper ban along with much of the population of the city. Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy and it’s incredibly painful to read about the event and the nearly three decades of injustice that followed, but if you want to understand the intersection of sports, society, and politics, it’s a critical case study.