A New Virtual Reality Game for Literary Critics

Along with Jerome Weeks’ essay on Gail Pool’s new book that I linked to yesterday, the Boston Globe ran a piece by Sven Birkerts

on the beyond-exhausted print vs. blog debate. There are

good points – especially when Birkerts brings up Cynthia Ozick’s

Harper’s essay (which, had it been posted in full online, would have

had far greater play in the overall discussion) but in setting up a

dichotomy that really doesn’t exist – as a blogger and print reviewer,

am I my own worst enemy? – Birkerts, though honest in his thinking,

misses the larger point.

And so it occurred to me, with so much real and virtual ink spilled,

that no one has made the necessary leap to thinking about a true-blue

“print is dead” (or at least, resting in comatose, dead parrot fashion)

scenario. So here is my challenge to my fellow NBCC members, other

reviewers and critics, authors, whomever: tomorrow morning, we wake up

and newspapers are dead. No more outlets for book reviews of a certain

stripe.* What are you going to do? Will you blog, for pleasure or for

money? Will you spend too much time hanging out at literary social

networking sites? Will you up your critical game to crack more esteemed

publications such as the New York Review of Books, Bookforum or the TLS? Will you even review books anymore? Will you even write anymore?

Instead of bitching and moaning about a worst case scenario, envision

it. Embrace it. Challenge it. Accept it. Because then, and only then,

can we really understand both what is potentially lost and also

potentially gained.

My answer to the above question is easy: I’d adapt, just like I have

for the nearly four years since I opened up my blog shingle and changed

direction from a would-be forensic scientist into a freelance writer.

*_Of course, if newspapers ceased to exist, there would be greater

issues than the state of book reviewing, but it’s my VR game and I’m

sticking to it._