March 29, 2002

On criticism

Diane Greco takes a look at the New York Times Book Review, and doesn't like what she sees. The favorable reviews, she finds, are mere hagiography, but Greco argues that the unfavorable reviews often reflect intellectual laziness. "Hypertext", she finds, has entered pop culture as a term of abuse, people don't like emotion or complexity or challenge, and worry entirely too much about whether a book will sell -- a question that should hardly concern the reviewer.

"Another popular way to slam a book is to argue that it is too intellectual, too 'symbolic,' in need of too much "interpretation." (Can you hear the gagging yet?) Claiming a book won't appeal to the hoi polloi implies that the book is not marketable -- it won't sell. This argument is not only completely specious because it conflates merit with sales, but it is particularly deadly because it encourages people to believe that it is perfectly all right to conflate merit with sales. "