Who doesn’t love random cute dog photos? This is one of my dogs, Ruairi (Rory) Boy.
One of the most inexplicable things I read last week (and there were a lot of them) was Jacob Silverman’s critique of readers and writers in Slate, in which he claims that both groups are far too nice online, and makes a rather bizarre argument against enthusiasm.
Whereas critics once performed one role in print and another in life—Rebecca West could savage someone’s book in the morning and dine with him in the evening—social media has collapsed these barriers. Moreover, social media’s centrifugal forces of approbation—retweets, likes, favorites, and the self-consciousness that accompanies each public utterance—make any critique stick out sorely.
Is this Silverman’s backdoor method of slamming amateur reviews such as myself who enthusiastically evangelize about books we believe in? Is it just another example of the literary establishment being threatened by regular ol’ readers’ influence? Perhaps it’s push-back against a publishing climate which requires that authors self-promote and engage (gasp!) directly with readers? Does he have a problem with the success of so many female authors via social media?
I won’t speculate as to the motivation behind this anti-enthusiasm manifesto, but for me as a reader, all of those messages ring loud and clear as the real root of Silverman’s piece. But mostly, I am very bothered by the following premises of his argument:
- That readers and reviewers online are expected to only be cheerleaders of books and authors; and
- That we need more negativity.
I am also extremely troubled by two other points in Silverman’s piece that aren’t as overt:
- That this culture of niceness is women’s fault; and
- That negative opinions are somehow more “true” than positive ones.
There’s something to be said for being nice.