Author Slams Blogs; Publicist Sighs Quietly

By Neal Comment

sheila-kohler.jpgUntil people started forwarding me Richard Schickel‘s ignorant pontificating Sunday, I’d actually done a pretty good job of avoiding the whole phony reviewer/blogger fracas for a few days, so I hadn’t seen Sheila Kohler‘s comments at the NBCC blog. This is what Kohler (left) told her interviewer about online reviews:

“Occasionally someone may mention my books in a blog. I believe the dangers of this indiscriminate reporting on books is that people who have no knowledge of literature can air their views as though they were of value and may influence readers.”

Wouldn’t it be funny if Sheila Kohler had hired a freelance publicist, who was running around pitching her new novel, Bluebird, or The Invention of Happiness, to book-themed blogs just after her client had declared the people running them had “no knowledge of literature”? And that email pitch, in addition to hyping the novel’s presence on this month’s Book Sense list, and Kohler’s commitment to touring with independent bookstores, framed the discussion with high-falutin’ literary questions like: “How likely is it to find a happy, strong and determined woman protagonist who actually is in love with her husband?” I tell you, if something like that happened, it would just crack me up. It’d be even funnier if it turned out that one of the few bloggers who actually discussed Kohler’s novel before she gave that interview was the woman who reviewed it for Booklist. And if, after the NBCC featurette ran, Kohler gave an interview to a blog called History Buff, I might break into some major giggling.

Fortunately, I was also steered towards a sensible summation of this non-issue by Guardian blogger Shirley Dent, which led me to the debut of The Spiked Review of Books, a monthly feature at a British website which aims to revive a sentiment that treated book sections as “a place where arguments were had and thought experiments conducted… an arena for writers to take the pulse of the zeitgeist and to launch salvos in the battle of ideas.”