THE DIGITAL CRITIC by Houman Barekat


Literary Culture Online
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A gathering of mostly accessible academic pieces on the changes wrought on literature and criticism by the internet.

“There is more to the online literary debate than ‘if you liked that, you’ll love this,’ ” writes University of Cambridge professor Kasia Boddy in her foreword. There surely is: the internet can be a place of bots awarding points to dubious books and haters tearing a book’s ratings down; it can be an echo chamber or a wind tunnel, useful or useless. Online critic Scott Esposito, who has been at it since nearly the beginning of blogs, charts the recent evolution of the Web as a means of literary communication, noting, for instance, that he scarcely reads New York Times book reviews anymore, since digests are so readily available online: “why bother, when a tweet will tell you everything you need to know about said review?” One suspects that as a stalwart of literary culture—and he’s a little self-congratulatory there—Esposito is not entirely serious, but he does make the significant point that he and others first learned of the likes of Knausgaard, Ferrante, and so forth via social media. Jonathon Sturgeon writes ruefully of being an “online hack,” pushing out copy for hits and “moving worstward,” while, more reassuringly, Will Self assures the writers in the audience that it’s OK to live in isolation: “you cannot write while you’re having a conversation.” Of the more noteworthy pieces, essayist Lauren Elkin considers the positive effects that reaching for a broader audience might have on academic criticism (“criticism wants to go outward”), while theoretician and publisher Michael Bhaskar proposes that publishing itself is a form of criticism (via gatekeeping, editing, promoting, and so forth). Interestingly, many of the contributors, though fully part of the system, worry about the “overproduction of content,” as writer Orit Gat puts it—though Gat herself suggests that still more platforms are wanted for digital production.

Of broad interest to readers working in that Venn diagram space where writing, publishing, and cyberspace come together.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-682190-76-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: OR Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2017


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