Pooter Season

1. Apparently it’s not duck season, and it’s not rabbit season. It’s blogger season. Well, I missed the jump on Rachel Cooke’s condescending piece trashing bloggers as talentless “pooters” in the Guardian, and plenty of other people have already let Ms. Cooke know what they think of her calculations.

So I’ll keep this short: I read professional book critics and I read literary bloggers. I’m quite sure that many literary bloggers can stand up to their “professional” peers on the basis of writing skill, knowledge, judgement and style. What bloggers lack in editorial oversight, we make up in humor. I find it strange that so many professional book critics are writing articles trashing bloggers as sub-literate or incompetent, since we are nothing of the sort. Myself, I’ve corrected the New York Times more often than they’ve corrected me.

2. Here’s some more nonsense. Ian McEwan has always acknowledged that his superb novel Atonement, which depicts British medical emergency units in World War II, was based on background information found in a series of books by a nurse named Lucilla Andrews (whose popular books were sometimes sold as steamy paperbacks). Since McEwan clearly acknowledged this inspiration in the book itself, and since there is nothing wrong with fiction based on primary historical sources, this case does not resemble plagiarism in the slightest sense. Yet McEwan has to endure junk like this.

3. Now here’s something good: somebody’s finally writing a full-length and well-researched biography of Kurt Vonnegut. Charles Shields is looking for stories of encounters with the debonair satirist of Schenectady, and in fact I already sent him my story, which I’ll tell you someday soon too.

4. Here’s a great investigative piece by the Rake on Dave Eggers’ early panning of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (which he is now writing forwards for). I agree that Eggers has every right to change his opinion over ten years, though it’s strange he didn’t mention this change of opinion in the new forward. Well, anyway, I guess I have no problem with the co-author of What is the What.

5. I’ve always loved what Penguin Books does with packaging, from the classics to this (via The Millions).

6. Here’s where Will Self writes. Appropriately extreme. I’m not disappointed.

9 Responses

  1. Le BlogMy editors from both
    Le Blog

    My editors from both Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine objected strenuously, and in no uncertain terms, to my tentative efforts at blogging. This was just before blogging took off.

    I did not understand their reasoning.

    1.) They were afraid I might spill the stuff that went on between us which I did. They felt betrayed.

    2.) I was constantly being confronted with: why isn’t our publishing your work enough.


    3.) They looked down from the lofty heights of print publishing with observations such as: Bloggers can’t get published anywhere else which is why they blog. There is no editor in the blogging process; thusly the process is of less value.

    Blogging was looked at as if “anyone can do it” which is a place of unadulterated scorn in the book world.

    The sheen on blogging has worn off and publishers are no longer interested in books by bloggers.

    I would try to make the point that there are different audiences going on here. This POV was spit on as well.

    At this point the following sentences would be uttered which I have to say jolted me. It was a lie, of course, and I was being manipulated and placated but I was too stupid and inexperienced to know it: But it goes like this:

    “We want anything and everything you might write.”

    Duhh. Say what.

    I thought Nirvana had arrived. Not once but several times.

    Anyone who thinks an editor wants anything you might write is an idiot.

    I was.

    Consequently I sent in a book I was under contract for.

    Conversation: What is this on my desk.

    Me: It’s the book you bought three years ago.

    Editor: Get it off my desk I hate it.

    Me: thinking: fool, I guess they don’t want everything you write after all.

    This is verbatim.

    Ironically, blogging mystifies me more than publishing. However…

    Blogging is publishing. I don’t think bloggers see that due to the ephemeral nature of most of it.

    Blogging is ripe with slander and libel.

    Most bloggers seem to have no idea what the definition of slander and libel is.

    There are very definite legal criteria for these things.

    Most people translate slander and libel into the broad stroke of “telling a lie.”

    This is false, and both definitions have to do with maliciousness and an interference in one’s ability to make an income.

    But bloggers are careless.

    It is completely and utterly erroneous for a blogger to publish: Tim Barrus ripped Sherman Alexie’s life story off.

    Yet in the blogging world I am the devil incarnate.

    Some of this has to do with the fact that my big mouth is a loud critic of publishing and the bloggers do, indeed, desire to break into that world, and how dare I critique it and break the rules that keep the thing intact. It’s the place they really want to be.

    This is disingenuous at best.

    1.) I had no idea as to who Sherman Alexie was until he decided to go after me in such places as Time magazine.

    2.) To this day I have never once ever even so much as read a single word penned by this man let alone a story or a book.

    3.) If I ripped off his life story then why aren’t the bloggers who insist on the reality of this nonsense quoting actual passages. They can’t because the charge is bogus.

    4.) Life stories on the reservation just like life stories in any other place will share many common themes. Certainly stories that share such characteristics as alcholism as portrayed by the characters in the story are going to share certain elements whether the characters reside in the barrio or the suburbs. Alcoholism is alcoholism. It has been the subject of writers for a long time.

    5.) No one “owns” all the stories. Not even Sherman Alexie whoever he is.

    Yet the blogging world has this tendency to take something published on one blog and spread it like wildfire as fact. James Wales and I have argued about this in depth. Wikipedia, just like the blogs, does not have the resources to check facts. If a blog says it, Wikipedia will say it.

    I am constantly (not at the level of print because they’re too careful but in the blogs) being charged with pedophilia.

    1.) I have never been charged with a crime in my life.

    2.) The idea of sex with a child is abhorrent to me in the extreme.

    3.) There is a difference between sex and intimacy.

    4.) My real crime as a writer is to have portrayed children I do, indeed, know as having a sensuality to their personalities. This is not tolerated by the blogs where attributes can be characterized with very large brush strokes.

    5.) There is a difference between sexuality and sensuality and children can be sensual in terms of who they are and this is simply a reality. As a writer, I am supposed to leave this out.

    Unfortunately, many of the worries of my book editors have actualized themselves by bloggers. They can be sloppy in the extreme.

    If I had had the cash, and I am not kidding, I would have sued every last one of them. And I would have won.

    This is where the word maliciousness comes into play.

    There is an anxiety behind many blogs where the blogger sweats over his feeling that he must be read. He wants his opinion to be taken seriously even in light of the fact that he blogs anonymously and has no identity. I may have assumed identities (something writers have done for centuries) but I always had one.

    I have never signed off anything in my life as — anonymous.

    The blogging world is so ripe with maliciousness that I have had to look hard at my own behavior and I do regret much of the mud-slinging that I have thrown at publishing.

    Not that it wasn’t true.

    But it was mean.

    Today, if you search for certain names of publishers, you do not immediately come up with their accomplishments. What you come up with in the search are my tirades and comments.

    I regret that.

    I am sorry I shot from the hip.

    So I am an offender here and I was as nasty as any of the bloggers who who kicked my ass around the parking lot.

    Litkicks is the only blog I read. The others are too painful to read. Reading them and wincing became too strenuous. I had to leave the country to escape the hate. In Paris no one knows who I am and no one cares. I value that. As a writer it’s hard enough to work with the American blogs boring holes in you at every available opprtunity.

    They often have their facts just plain wrong.

    I have always said that someday somebody is going to come along and they will be the wrong person to slander.

    They will sue and they will win.

    This will send a chill through bloggerland where, quite frankly, they deserve to be chilled.

    The discourse is often so vitriolic that it could never, ever be tolerated in print publishing and the lawyers there could once again justify their editorial existence as necessary to survival in a marketplace where there are and need to be controls on the kind of maliciousness that damages innocent people. The person who screams the loudest — or spews the nastiest sarcasm — isn’t necessarily the person who is right.

    There is a wisdom that the print editors do not really have but pretend to. Unfortunately, the blogging world has confirmed that wisdom as, indeed, wisdom (it is actually institutional convention) by claiming an ill-deserved superiority that has been anything but wise. What is likely to happen in bloggerland is that change will come along (not unlike it has in publishing) as some steadfast wind and the whole notion of graphics and print on a webpage will simply look obsolete. Things are going to move and sing and dance and cry and play music and narratives are going to unfold in ways that will leave sheer opinion and blogging in the technological dust.

    I note that on YouTube you are given a “my channel” versus a blog they way you are given a blog at My Space.

    Your “my channel” will be your blog.

    Two days ago I purchased a new movie camera t
    hat allows me to do anything Hollywood can do but there’s one huge exception. My new camera is not even the size of a computer’s mouse and it not only fits into the palm of my hand but I can keep it in my pocket where my wallet is bigger than the camera.

    This has huge implications and for blogging, too.

    Let us pretend (since it’s a reality) that no book publisher will publish me ever again. Consequently, in the past I would have turned to the Internet to create the work I do. Let us pretend (since it’s a reality) that I’ve been walking the streets of Paris at night and documenting much of the shadow world I find there. In the past I would have told you all about it on my blog (which I took down last night because it felt so dated and stale) but I now have a new camera so things are different.

    Now, I will put it on YouTube because I can.

    I am toying with the idea of reviewing books there as well.

    It’s up to me. It’s not up to an editor. It’s also not up to the bloggers.

    My work will either thrive or fail of its own accord. And THAT is the hope of change.

  2. Okay…Now let’s hear from

    Now let’s hear from all the writers out there who can’t get their books reviewed either in print OR by bloggers.

  3. People scream.But the reality
    People scream.

    But the reality is that blog-reviews-of-books is not the grass roots phenonenom it was in the beginning of blogdom.

    Publishing has coopted you.

    With money.

    It always said it would and it did.

    I can’t tell you that folks in blogdom are making money. I would doubt it.

    Publishing would definitely not tolerate that.

    But the book blogs are featuring book ads from major publishing houses.

    This changes everything.

    And both ends of the spectrum know it.

    People scream bloody murder. When I say this. But it’s true.

    It has to do with class.

    It has nothing to do with books or the quality of them.

    The aristocrasy is going to have access. This is mainstream ideology and it holds water.

    It applies to books no matter who writes them and who publishes them. The aristocrasy has access.

    It is a matter of class. This applies to publishing in spades.

    Surprise: In publishing there is an aristocrasy.

    The blogs used to have something to do with an egalatarian grass roots agenda where access was not based on class although it was. You had to have a computer.

    You had to be somewhat literate.

    They don’t like to talk about access.

    Most aristocrasies are only good at one thing. Keeping themselves intact and in power.

    It is my understanding that some mainstream book blogs have employees.

    This implies things like state disability insurance.

    Very mainstream.

    And they look mainstream, too. It can’t be a surprise that the books they would review are picked with mainstream agendas and criteria.


    That goes immediately to class.

    There is a pecking order. The world of books is infected with it more than almost any other aspect to culture or society.

    I would suspect most book blogs get more books than they would really want to review. As do most newspaper book review editors. Whose jobs are under extraordinary stress because managing editors are getting rid of them in droves.

    These are mainstream dynamics. Those dynamics let a few people in and keep most people out. The mythology is that this dynamic is based on the quality of the work.

    Not tue.

    Here’s another dynamic everyone in publishing denies vociferously.

    Reviews don’t sell books.

    I could go on and on (I will spare Levi) about how the NYT Book Review does not sell books and how the numbers prove this. That they sell books is merely a mythology that keeps the book aristocrasy the book aristocrasy,

    America is the classless society.

    And I am Marie of Romania.

  4. You are onto something with
    You are onto something with YouTube, I feel it in the air – I would definitely watch you reviewing books or reading from your books on YouTube.

  5. Just as an aside: Apparently
    Just as an aside: Apparently some publishers are forward thinkers; I’ve run across a couple of writers on MySpace who say they have no interest in MySpace, but they were contractually obligated to have a Space there. But that may have been shortly after the news report that some rock bands had sold large numbers of CD’s by building a following on MySpace.

  6. One of the principal reasons
    One of the principal reasons for my being attracted to Likicks, beyond my inability to spell, is that there is an equality here that is imbued upon the voice of the blog by the individual who maintains it as a labor of love and he doesn’t have to.

    I really wrestle with the idea that only individuals and individual voices can imbue and maintain that equality where institutions utterly fail and lack the facility. Publishing houses are institutions. They are not voices. Individuals have voices. The irony is that equality must be imposed by one voice because institutions cannot or will not assume fairness unless they are forced to.

    When hope fades as institutions do, it is human history that finds an individual picking up the slack. The creators of blogs have every right to stand up and be counted especially in the face of indifference.

    Which is publishing’s most apparent attribute.

    We depend on individuals. Here, too. Without an alternative voice we become smothered by the rhetoric of one point of view. That one opposes at one’s peril.

  7. And let me add, I hope Levi
    And let me add, I hope Levi puts his “Notes From the Underground” on YouTube!

  8. 1. Keep writing. It’s all you
    1. Keep writing. It’s all you can do. If you have something published that’s as good as Cat’s Cradle or Catch-22 or Mice & Men or Dog Soldiers, make an appointment with the book reviewers at the Miami Herald or the Atlanta Constitution and bring them a copy.
    2. Join a book club. Have them read it.
    3. Writers’ groups…maybe there’s luck there but #1 is best.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!