Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reviews, Blogs & Podcasts

Lissa Warren, of The Huffington Post, asks "Will Blogs Save Books?" She's reacting to the announcement that the LA Times is laying off two of its books editors and folding its stand-alone Sunday books section into its Calendar section.

She takes issue with the notion that blogs are an adequate substitute for professional reviews, saying, "Well, I think book reviews on blogs -- particularly those of the Blogspot variety -- tend to be self-indulgent. Book reviewing bloggers need to move away from opinion in favor of judgment. How does the book compare to -- and fit in with -- the author's previous work? What's the book's place in the genre? The canon? Does the writer succeed in doing what he or she set out to do -- meaning, is it the book they meant it to be? Whether it's the book the blogger wanted it to be is of much less importance to me, frankly."

But she's hopeful that will change: "But I can envision a day when blogs do for books what books have done for people: challenged us, made us think in ways we never would have."

Personally, I think peer-to-peer reviewing carries more weight with me than critical reviews these days, and I tend to read far more peer-to-peer review blogs than print sources. Part of that, of course, is my focus as an editor getting a handle on what actual readers think. And what I find the most helpful, actually, as a consumer - for when I'm debating what I want to read in my oh-so-scarce pleasure reading tie - is interviews. They give me the best sense for what a writer is like and whether I'm liable to respond to what he/she is doing.

And you know what, one of my favorite interviewers is Rick Kleffel, whose Agony Column podcast is in depth and detailed enough to hold my interest, and whose tastes broad enough that I feel it's still relevant to my day job while taking me a few places I wouldn't go otherwise. So good on Jeff Vandermeer for interviewing Rick!

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