Some further thoughts.
1) Does the argument of the broadsheet lit types just come down to but we’re special? But you’re not. Did nobody tell you?
2) I can’t say how important this idea of trust networks and democratic criticism is. We build little reading communities: I don’t much mind if you belong to one that idolises Sophie Kinsella, say; not my bag, and I might make the odd joke, but there’s room for us all (at least until the IP addresses run out).
3) I forgot to use a favourite analogy: literary blogs as an extension of talking about books and literary life down the pub with friends (Yes, I deliberately did name this site after a pub). This is where you habitually hear the name pronounced ‘McCrummy’; blogs can just make that more accessible, ie not confined to London and its fenland & Thames Valley suburbs. (Bit ambivalent about this, though. I don’t like the idea of a gossiping about the estab, because this validates them, it descends to prurience and ugliness quickly, and the motivations become murky; however, mocking the self-important and cosily entrenched matters; lies and stupidity should be fingered; and in the case of the literary world, removing the last vestiges of ‘specialness’ and ‘authority’ from the papers is worthwhile)
4) I actually hate this kind of post, saying what blogs are/do, rather than doing it. Still, once in a while.
5) History of criticism. Looked at one way, many of the best voices in criticism – review, theory or essay – come out of places like the stoa/agora, coffee house culture, competitive tutorial-driven environments (ie everyone trained for an hour of cultural combat each week, lot of sparring on own time, etc). Might something good come out of a giant-sized, ethereal version of same?
6) Editorial process is good. I don’t think I stated that clearly enough. Text going through the edit-and-sub grinder will come out as a cleaner, easier read. However, this is only true if the editors are good; and it can equally make prose duller or cheaper. This process is the single greatest advantage of book criticism in print, rather than some special magical dust-of-taste which the editor sprinkles over the page before it’s printed. Again: not special!
7) Criticism will persist; we’re better off asking how it’s going to change. The style questions are interesting: This strongly implies that style needs to change for the web. I expect scanning on these pages – I sometimes hope to make not-stupid points, but I’ll usually be swearing, throwing in caps, going for short pars & periods, making jokes, inserting pictures: basically, employing a set of rhetorical strategies adapted for a website rather than print. Or ‘gimmicks’ as you might call them (next week – the blink tag comeback). Anyway, I guess portable readers/better screens would take us back to a point where a more classical style might be again fit; but for the moment I’m interested in seeing how/if long-form criticism adapts to the skimmy world of the web.
Maybe I’ll lay off this topic for a little. I’ll edit it into this post if I think of anything else, spare the Bell becoming a monoblog.