In Other News, We’ve Never Been at War with Eastasia

By Neal Comment

After a tireless year of promotional hustle, National Book Critics Circle president John Freeman and his organization have been named by Publishers Weekly as ranking among the most influential people in publishing for 2007, but one can’t help but be highly amused by Freeman’s claim that “the NBCC has sponsored panels aplenty on the increasingly large role bloggers are playing in bringing book reviews to the public.” Though PW‘s tone implies a rather collegial atmosphere, one remembers those panels as bemoaning the slow, lingering death of print-based reviewing and shunning independent bookbloggers in favor of old media veterans, one of whom hadn’t even started blogging when the panel was held, so they could indulge themselves in the usual jabs at the blogosphere.

In fairness, though, at the last panel in September, the Circle finally seemed to realize that there’s “a single (growing) conversation about books,” although where Freeman concluded that “blogs have merely made that conversation more visible,” one might perhaps counter that blogs have helped keep that conversation alive despite the stagnancy of print-based literary criticism. The NBCC’s current sentiment is certainly, and commendably, a far cry from the springtime, when Freeman was warning readers that “for every lit-blogger who has been serving up opinions daily since 1998, there are five books editors who were around when Toni Morrison’s first book landed on their desk in 1970, and are no longer.” And I’m glad that we all seem to have reached detente now. But I hardly think we need to whitewash history in the process.

But maybe it’s just a matter of PW only having three short paragraphs to tell the story. After all, if they’d had more space, they would surely have mentioned that of the three “non-newspaper organizations” Freeman cites for their improved book coverage over 2007, he’s a frequent contributor to the Barnes & Noble Review and the subject of a Bookforum profile.