22 May, 2007

richard schickel firmly believes you are stupid

this opinion piece is, i believe, a reaction to the current battle being waged (somewhere, out there) between professional book reviewers and blogging book reviewers. personally, i don't care about it. i don't generally review books on my page, though i read a fair amount. mostly, i haven't the time to bother. additionally, i know most people who read this blog. there is an understanding that, if i say such and such book is worth reading, then that is enough to warrant picking it up. but i wouldn't consider that a review. it's a recommendation. however, i digress.

what i take issue to is not even the statement that elitism is a good thing. i agree, to an exent. no, what i take issue with is this statement, tossed out there after listing orwell, edmund wilson and some 19th century frenchman as the pinacles of literary criticsm:

[...]all three wrote for intelligent readers who emerged from their reviews grateful to know more than they did when they started to read, grateful for their encounter with a serious and, indeed, superior, mind. We do not — maybe I ought to make that "should not" — read to confirm our own prejudices and stupidity.

I don't think it's impossible for bloggers to write intelligent reviews. I do think, however, that a simple "love" of reading (or movie-going or whatever) is an insufficient qualification for the job. That way often leads to cultishness (see the currently inflated reputations of Philip K. Dick or Cornell Woolrich, both easy reads for lazy, word-addicted minds).
yes folks, you have an inferior mind. even you "intelligent readers". mr. schickel thinks you cannot possibly read and understand and criticize literary works on your own. regardless of your intelligence. why? i'm guessing it's because you are not a writer. and even if you are, you're still alive. to be a proper critic you must first and foremost be dead. otherwise, you cannot possibly be taken seriously.

as for being "word-addicted", i'm sorry richard, but that is part of the craft of writing. if we are to take the words of writers more seriously, then philip k. dick's reputation is still under inflated. but, you know, he wrote sci-fi and took drugs. i've no idea who cornell woolrich is. so i'm guessing his reputation is not as overinflated as mr. schickel thinks. doesn't matter. schickel strikes me as the sort of pretentious git who equates inpenetrability with intelligence, and "serious" works as being all that is worthy of reading. but, mind you, you must be told what is worthy of your time by a "superior mind". such as, i'm guessing, mr. schickel. who writes for "time".

you'll all forgive me if i stick to trusting my own abilities and the recommendations of those whom i find trustworthy (such as keifus). being a pleb, i'd likely not even be able to understand cricism anyway

EDIT 5/24: in the interest of fairness, i do agree that not everyone's opinion or criticism is of equal value. what i dislike is the idea that being paid to do something instantly means one is better at it than others. for a prime example, read firejoemorgan.com. it's also a prime example of why those who have done some thing (such as played pro baseball) does not mean they are more capable of analysing or criticising that same thing. also, i think mr. schickel does not quite understand how sites that, say review books, come about. they are not written by people who set out to get a job as a reviewer and failed. they are written by people who started reviewing books for friends and acquaintences and then attracted a wider readership. it is not true that if someone is good enough to review a book, they'd have a job. for they may never have sought one. mostly, though, the suggestion that people who write online, as a hobby or diversion, are somehow less intelligent or capable simply because they are writing for free, is extraordinarily insulting. yes, there are a great many morons babbling away online (some may consider me to be one of them). however, there are also a great many highly intelligent people out there, sharing their thoughts as well.


Keifus said...


You're right, that's pretty annoying. On a number of levels.

twiffer said...

i do wonder what makes one "qualified". i mean, i've got a B.A in english lit. am i qualifed? or does one merely have to be a published writer? if so, then is, say, danielle steele qualified?

plus, he reviews movies for "time". does this man not realize the irony?