Thoughts on “Niceness” in Literary Blogging

“Against Enthusiasm,” Jacob Silverman’s article in Slate last week (you can read it here or by clicking the image above), had me thinking about the ways in which online culture affects how we read literature these days. Silverman suggests that it is harder to read negative book reviews these days and most reviews are recommendations rather than critical appraisals. The former in particular might be true, and it is a point that deserves consideration: what should the role of literary criticism be, particularly in the online universe? Should reviewers spend time reviewing books that they genuinely dislike, or does the choice to write a review already represent a type of criticism in the form of curation? Indeed, at Global Graffiti  we generally do not give space to reviews of texts that we dislike; instead we choose to focus space, time, and energy on presenting reviews of and excerpts from works that we hope to bring to our readers’ attention, especially those that are not published by large presses with powerful marketing machines. Silverman’s idea that online venues create an atmosphere of overwhelming “niceness” when it comes to literary criticism, however, seems rather simplistic. While Silverman broaches several interesting points, his overall analysis is flawed in a way brilliantly parsed by the crew over at NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour (check out their podcast here).

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