Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A guild man bares his teeth

and ends up drooling all over himself.

Not everybody's a critic

Sure, anyone with a blog can express an opinion about a book, but true criticism is more than just an opinion.

He does have one very good point:
Very often, in the best reviews, opinion is conveyed without a judgmental word being spoken, because the review's highest business is to initiate intelligent dialogue about the work in question, beginning a discussion that, in some cases, will persist down the years, even down the centuries.
Unfortunately, that point gets lost in a tangle of cranky, hypocritical, and irrational venom.

Schickel admits that most print reviews are “hack work, done on the fly for short money.” Yet he spends most of his time bashing bloggers. Apparently, hack work done for money is more tolerable than hack work done for free. Maybe Schickel subscribes to the ethics of whoredom. More likely the distinction between paid and free is important to him because the paid hacks tend to be members of the journos guild. As we shall see, guild membership is very, very important to Mr. Schickel.

He is, for some reason, deeply offended that “a former quality-control manager for a car parts maker, last year wrote 95 book reviews for his website.”

He never names this hapless blogger. He does not tell us why this nameless blogger matters. He does not quote any of his reviews to show us how inane or superficial they are. “The guy from car parts” simply gets under his skin because he dares to do what Mr. Schickel gets paid to do. Mr. Schickel takes it for granted that his distress is a good reason for his readers to disdain all such people.

That is an odd attitude to take when one is arguing in favor of educated, intelligence criticism. A critic who cannot follow his own rules even when he is propounding and defending those rules is a singularly obtuse and insincere critic.

I think that this sentence really gets to the heart of Mr. Schickel’s discomfort.

We need to see something other than flash, egotism and self-importance. We need to see their credentials. And they need to prove, not merely assert, their right to an opinion.
“Credentials.” “Right to an opinion.” Mr. Schickel clearly thinks that his credentials speak for themselves and, thus, he has a right to an opinion. As for the rest of us, we need to go away and stop bothering his readers.

The funny thing is, no one is forcing any one to read the website of the “guy from car parts.” If his work is of little merit, he will be unheard and will have no part in the dialogue that Mr. Schickel pretends to cherish.

No. The problem is that people do find merit in these sites. At least they find enough value to stop paying for the fatuous pronouncements of blowhards like Schickel.

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