The Blog As Performance Art: Are Critics Cool with Us Now?

When did my blog become performance art? Not today; it was definitely not yesterday. The years have rolled by swiftly, like an interlude in To the Lighthouse, only with less glamour and sophistication – so much less.

Perhaps the performance art aspect began in 2012 when, annoyed by the glut of attacks on blogs by critics, editors, and writers who regarded book bloggers and Goodreads reviewers as amateur rivals from hell, I decided to fight back. Gently.

The word “gently” meant, for the most part, ignoring them. First, we were not necessarily reading the critics; second, we could not comprehend the oddity of a witch hunt launched upon their fellow readers; and third, we had no intention of competing with them. Heavens, I wrote my heart out almost every day, rapidly and often awkwardly, at a goofy (now defunct) blog. I sincerely doubt this blog (700 subscribers) had any effect on the future of criticism. The subtitle: “A BOOK BLOG.”

Though I do not write literary criticism, nobody can say I am not a friend of the book. I may not love every book, but I love plenty of them. Mostly I read books by the dead, who are never offended by what I say. But I soon learned that no hint of negative criticism went unpunished. Someone emailed me about the death of a favorite writer but then went on to deride my blog. I was devastated by the writer’s death but did consider the bearer of bad news fucked-up.

Sometimes writers “like” my reviews. Cool, cool! Another time a writer sent me a card. Cool, cool, cool, cool! but then it was a disappointment. Neither my husband nor I could decipher it but we thought we caught the word “mean.”

“Take it as a compliment,” Mr. Nemo said.

Well, the critics, writers, and editors have forgotten about blogs now – they have bigger things to worry about. Other social media have taken over and blogs are now “old-school.” And so we reside in peace together – at least I think we do.

Before I end this post, you will want to know what I am reading: Robert Graves’s The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose. Patricia T. O’Conner in the introduction calls this “the best book on writing ever published.” So far, it is very good indeed, and more about this later.

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