Enough people can’t be talking about this years Man Booker Prize, which is the only reason I can think of as to why Sir Peter Stothard has said:
“Criticism needs confidence in the face of extraordinary external competition,” the former editor of The Times says. “It is wonderful that there are so many blogs and websites devoted to books, but to be a critic is to be importantly different than those sharing their own taste… Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same.”
I think this comment by Becca Allen sums it up:
Stothard’s quote “Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same” smacks of “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, doesn’t it?
To me it seems that Stothard is basically bemoaning that the people who he considers to be ‘critics’ aren’t getting the outside validation that he thinks they should instead that authority is shifting.
“Eventually that will be to the detriment of literature. It will be bad for readers; as much as one would like to think that many bloggers opinions are as good as others. It just ain’t so. People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off. There are some important issues here.”
I wonder which readers he’s standing up for? Oh I see, readers who like their reading to bore them to tears:
“Yet, If the English novel does nothing to renew the English language, then it really doesn’t do anything. The great works of art have to renew the language in which they’re written. They have to offer a degree of resistance.”
I’d say Hilary Mantel’s odds of winning the Booker just decreased then.
There are so many ways to counter his argument but I’ll just chuck in a couple:
After reading Mieville’s writing for several years I can see how and why China would be worthy of a conference critiquing his work. I wonder if Stothard would judge him worthy? Not that it matters if he does because Mieville’s work is being considered in a serious and academic way something that would be unlikely to have happened without a widening of literary exploration.
Last year the Man Booker Official site had a forum and this year it doesn’t but again there are corners of the internet where engaged and intelligent readers gather to discuss this years long and short lists. Is this somewhere Stothard would consider hanging out?
By Stothard lumping all the people who use blogs to talk about books together ultimately he shows that he really is an outsider to the new and exciting conversation that is going on between so many readers who meet and diverge over completely unexpected books.
But that’s his loss; it really is.