Saturday, November 10, 2007

Texas Book Festival, Literary Criticism

As I'd stated before, this session was the most disappointing I'd attended thus far, even though it gave me a lot to think about. From the description, I'd somehow pulled the idea that the panel would speak to those of us who are trying to get our thoughts out to a readership, but even the panelist who (I believe) got her start online seems to have made herself too comfortable in her elite spot to consort with the rest of us wannabes.

These notes, unfortunately, are a little disjointed, but there are some really good nuggets here:

The big-newspaper market is drying up, and any hit to part of that ecology will affect the whole (I think he was speaking to the removal or lessening of the "Books" section)
General readers are becoming "non-newspaper" readers.
The diversity of authors/published books is not reflected in the current coverage of reviews.
Gail Poole [sp?]--Faint Praise
Edgar Allen Poe was a reviewer in his time, in fact, was a "tomahawk man."
The professor on the panel (Steven G. Kellman) was dismayed about the "Ebertization" (thumbs up/down) of book criticism.
Of course, one has to account for the time/space factor in reviewing.
It's hard to find intelligent negative reviews.
Rebecca Westwood--(essay, 1914) "Duty of Harsh Criticism"
Literary journals produce good reviews, but since they have such a long lead time, they can't be relied on for book promotion.
Kirkus Reviews [are they hiring?]
Try judging by what choices the reviewers make, not necessarily what they write.
None of the panelists review self-publshed books, for legal reasons (essentially, publishing a libel makes you liable).
In the "old days" intelligent people used literature to think.
don't silence the imaginative writers (character Amy Bellett, via Philip Roth)
A good critic helps the reader understand the book.
On the web, more people are writing about books, there's more access to these reviews, and to the books.
One panelist wished for a book show that was set up to be as entertaining as the Daily Show.
Alan Cheuse stated that "we're [critics/authors] at war" with capturing and keeping readers.
Librarians know the value of the book page, and usually choose from print materials (like BookPages).
Jessa Crispin (BookSlut) says that book bloggers will be taken seriously [by her level, I'm presuming] when they have something to say.
One attendee wished for an IBDB (Internet Book Database).
Complete Review [internet? publication?]
B.R. Myers--Reader's Manifesto Atlantic Monthly [2001?]
For authors, is better to go with a small press than to self-publish (better shot at getting underwriters and promotion)
Critical Mass (National Book Critics' Circle)

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