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May 01, 2005


Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I realize this is an unoriginal sentiment but, you know, you're never going to please everybody. Unless you start receving hate mail from sweet little urchins or love notes from Saddam Hussein, provided you know your intentions are good, why lose sleep?


Fair enough: Please let's not be overdramatic.

Disagreement is fine; I see the flaws inherent in this little enterprise, too. I don't mean to squelch discussion by any means. But I am being straight with you when I express bafflement over what basically amounts to a friendly recommendation being taken so terribly personally in some quarters. Just wanted to help clear up some misrepresentation and say, you know, lighten up.

daniel olivas

you are a gentleman and if you can't appease the naysayers, who can?


Rake-- I'm wondering if you read my whole post on this matter, and the discussion that followed in the comments. That may answer some of the questions you posed here.

I believe my concerns and reservations regarding this new venture are well founded, but I also believe that the right thing to do is to give y'all the benefit of the doubt, and to watch and see what happens. Which I will do.

But to raise a question here: why *lit*blog co-op? Why set up such distinctions right from the start? Why not (for example) overlooked book blog co-op, or something else less divisive? Would it not be possible to present books for consideration by looking at narrative, characterization, prose, etc, without reference to lit-with-a-capital-L, or so-called serious literature versus commercial literature, or genre?

This is what concerns me, and I think the question is a reasonable one.

daniel olivas

based on what i've seen so far, i think that there will be a healthy dialogue regarding the issues raised by ms. s/r -- something not seen with print media. this will be exciting for book lovers.

Perry Middlemiss

I am at a loss to understand how the term "litblog" can be considered divisive. It's a blog relating to things literary, in the sense of "books or written composition", to quote my Concise Oxford Dictionary. The "lit" part of the title is just an abbreviation, nothing more. In my house (and my litblog) I make no distinction between works of fiction: be they sf, crime, historical, or those of the type nominated for the Booker. They are all shelved together. Literature is a big church, and everyone is invited. A stronger case could be made for criticising the current roster for only including weblogs from the Northern Hemisphere. But I, as an Australian, have no intention of doing so.

I see a wide range of primary interests in the LBC participants and think, and hope, it will work well. It's still early days yet. Criticising it for what it might become when it hasn't even started seems very premature.


s/r: I assure you I read the whole post.

A healthy dose of skepticism is fine. I'm glad to see, though, that you're giving the group the benefit of the doubt (although how that squares with your stated desire to ignore the LBC I'm not sure).

Anyway, I'm with Perry on this one, I think. I don't think we're going through great pains to make distinctions here--"lit" is "literary" or "literature," broadly construed, if you please. The LBC selections are going to reflect--admittedly in some distorted manner, given the nature of the beast--the reading preferences of the LBCers. And I'd bet that these reading preferences are less narrow than you think. (Which is my nice way of saying that charges of elitism are unfair and ungrounded...except where Sarvas is concerned.)

I find, speaking for myself (who else?), that the discussion over the categorization of books isn't very interesting. It's really just an irresolvable exchange of opinions, occasionally heated. I know what I like to read, and, if pressed, I can craft for you a rubric that separates Serious Fiction from Non-SF. Let's say for the sake of argument that I believe that SF rewards careful reading and re-reading and NSF doesn't. Therefore, Pynchon's novels are SF and Author X's aren't. While those words are still hanging in the air, some aggrieved fan of Author X will drop in to angrily inform me that they've read each of Author X's 35 books five times a piece, and that each time those books were like a slice of heaven, and that, moreover, they couldn't get through five pages of Pynchon. And round and round we go. (Later, BR Myers slaps me with a perfumed glove and challenges me to a duel.)

This is why I don't generally bother. (I mean, we can spar some more if you like, but we'll probably end up in the same place we started.) I read what I like and when it comes time for me to nominate something, it'll come from a selection of books that will look relatively narrow or broad depending on your perspective. Simple as that.

So: "Would it not be possible to present books for consideration by looking at narrative, characterization, prose, etc, without reference to lit-with-a-capital-L, or so-called serious literature versus commercial literature, or genre?" I think that's what's happening, more or less. I keep digging in the archives for all this "elite" and "self-serving" stuff you dislike, and I don't see it. That's why I admit to bafflement. (I'm confused as to how this little group could, for instance, be an insult to *your* novels, a feeling you mull over in your post.) If there's a hang up with the use of the term "literature" or "literary," we're ultimately splitting hairs over ad copy, and I'd ask that you look past that and toward the ultimate goal of putting a good, overlooked book--as you would have it--in someone's hands.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Speaking as someone who has often spoken out about the literary v. commercial issue, I don't find the word "litblog" offensive in the slightest. Further, I find it highly encouraging that the litbloggers I've encountered - so far! - have been willing to engage in discourse with commercial me.


I stated my concerns; Ed (and others) responded in the comments, and I revisited some of my original thoughts and conceded the need to step back. That's why I asked if you read all the comments as well as the post.

My initial concerns stem in part from the fact that there's little information here about motivations and orientation (at first glance) apart from the statement: *uniting the leading literary weblogs* -- which smacks of exclusivity and self importance. In my opinion. Maybe sitting down and reading every post would have dispelled that first impression -- just as you'd have a more well rounded understanding of my position if you went through my weblog and read more of what I've written about the topics at hand.


If I recall correctly, the term "litblog" came about because people were looking for a word that described all these book-related websites that kept popping up.

(Now, I can only hope that when a few people writing about books decided to form a club to join the force of their opinion, they considered the other possible meanings of LBC: )

So, maybe you don't like the word "literary" or "literature" -- but as someone who writes marketing brochures and calls them literature, I can assure you that it's not a term that is used only for snooty highbrow books.



Yep, the "alternate" meaning resonates with me, as I've owned both The Chronic and Doggystyle at one point. (Both subsequently stolen and not yet replaced.)

But it's just a happy accident because I had nothing to do with naming this group (though I did once title a post at Rake's Progress "So Much Drama in the LBC" back when I was jokingly referring to litblogs as the Lit Blog Cabal).


(Ah, so late to the party again.) I for one promise to only nominate serious literature. Books that one must wade through like a wrestling rink filled with stale chocolate pudding. I'm going to find the next William Gaddis and try to force the other LBCer's to read vast epics of allusion and unattributed dialogue... (oh wait we tried that with the Gaddis Drinking Club and had little success)... Or I'll just nominate some comics.

Loves Lit

"Smacks of self-importance"??? Holy cow, "s/r" takes the self-importance cake here and swallows it down whole! I'm sure the whole lbc collective is breathing easily to know she's willing to wait and see ... However would they have survived without s/r's largesse?

Lord love a duck, what you folks are doing is great, and I hope you won't lose a second's sleep over such foolish, knee-jerk PC pedantry. This notion that "lit" is some sinister appellation is rank foolishness indeed.


Loves (a Duck) -- but the point is, I can survive without you, the LBC, and its politics. And you and the LBC can survive without me, and anybody else who dares to raise concerns.


I'm still not clear on what our collective politics are... I always considered myself some kind of freethinking anarchist.


I thought we were an autonomous collective.

If it makes you feel any better, s/r, I really like "bookblog" better, but that's because I've read so much early 20th-century American stuff that when I hear "lit," I almost always think "drunk."


Can we accept Ron's definition and just get on with it? Take care, Sarah, we have writers like you down here who turn up to writers' festivals still blinking back tears over their lack of literary clout. Not to be too Phyllis Cheslerish about this, I propose you get over it and move on.
I've written a romance ( mercifully unpublished), I have great respect for anyone who writes for longer than four days at a stretch. But I'll decide how I feel about their writing, thanks, regardless of how it is sold to me and by whom.
And litblog, schmitblog - as opposed to PR blog,techblog, wiki, bloggety blog. It just helps with things like search engines, you know - the ghost in the library machine.
Derik, I am looking forward to that stale chocolate pudding by the way. Bring it on.

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