Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sutherland, Logic and the Bloggers

Funny thing, debate: the way whatever you say gets coloured for listeners by one extreme position or the other. Katy Evans-Bush has left a comment on my last post which prompts me to make my position clear on the furore surrounding Susan Hill's blog about John Sutherland's comments on web reviewers.

Although I do have my opinions about newspaper reviews, I haven't in fact voiced them so far on this occasion. The thing which concerns me is the lack of logic (or knowledge) which appears to be leading Sutherland to assume that (at the risk of repeating myself) all blog reviewers are untrained, that all untrained reviewers are not be trusted, and that readers cannot be expected to discriminate between good and bad reviews (or biased and unbiased reviews) and should therefore only trust the establishment (his word), ie newspaper reviews.

As it happens I think, like Scott Pack, that there is a place for both types of reviewing. Much has been made by bloggers in this debate of the fact that web reviews are written by 'book lovers', which I think can lead to a tendency towards positive reviews. This is of course a generalisation, and there are critical reviews on the web, but I know that many people think that recommendation is more positive and healthy than detraction. Personally I am interested in looking carefully at how books do and don't work, and so think that there's a place for the critical and (potentially negative) review - which newspapers do give space to.

Maybe this is all that John Sutherland was trying to say, but an injudicious phrase or two swept him away into the fury (and derision!) of bloggers. He did sound uncomfortable, I thought, on Radio 4 and further divested of his characteristic incisiveness and logic.
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