Are Online Book Critics Too Nice?

Part of being a writer in the Internet age is being subject to mass amounts of over-the-top, ridiculous criticisms. But for those who publish their own books online, the culture is actually very nice. Maybe too nice. A new article on argues that the literary critic is a necessary evil, one that forces young authors to work harder and constantly hone their craft.

We like, favorite, and heart all day; it is a show of support and agreement, as well as a small plea for attention… The problem with Liking is that it’s a critical dead-end, a conversation nonstarter. It’s opinion without evidence—or, really, posture without opinion. For every “+1,” “THIS,” or “<3” we offer next to someone’s fawning tweet, a feeling is expressed without saying much at all. And in the next review or essay, it will show.

I used to feel the same way. I started writing back in 2003 after reading a very popular online writer and thinking, "I can do that." Then I tried to write a book and realized it's not so easy. In fact, it's extremely difficult. Even if your book sucks, it takes a ton of thought, a ton of effort and a ton of time. The time commitment especially is a killer. You know how Alan Ginsberg saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness? I've seen the best writers of this generation destroyed by reruns of"Modern Family." People say they're going to write a book, or make an album, or do something else impressive, but they don't make it a priority and other tasks end up taking up all their time. So yes, most of the books that come out probably aren't that great, just like most of the TV shows or movies that get made are below average. But anyone who completes such a project deserves a certain level of respect. It's sort of like raising a child. Sure, your kid isn't that great. He's kind of shy, he only averaged a B-minus in school and he grew up to be an accountant. But hey, at least you finished the job.


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