In 2003, I wrote a spirited–some would say snarky–op-ed for the Washington Post. Headlined “It’s a Little Too cozy in the Blogosphere,” it called out what I saw as excessive chumminess and logrolling in the then-new literary blogosphere. I took some heat from members of said blogosphere, some of whom forgave me and went on to become good friends and conversation partners on Twitter and elsewhere.
Fast forward to 2018, with its vast universe of online literary activity. A new collection of essays called The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online (OR Books) does a pretty good job of exploring what it’s like to be a critic/writer/editor/publisher/teacher in that big digital universe, where almost anyone can be a critic and there are more outlets for more good writing (and for plenty of bad writing) than we have the capacity to appreciate.
Some questions persist in any medium, like whether or not it’s okay not to get paid for your writing. (I’m of the Harlan Ellison “Pay the damn writer!” school.) Here’s an excerpt from this review of The Digital Critic I wrote for the TLS:
“Amid all this online yawing to and fro, individual writers and critics have an easier time placing their work than their print-bound predecessors did. But they will also be asked even more often to write for “exposure” rather than cash. Literary labour tends to be a labour of love (ask any reviewer you know how much, or if, they were paid for their latest piece); and it is easily exploited when both outlets and writers are plentiful….“Exposure” has a cold ring to it, something one dies of rather than benefits by.”
You can listen to me talking more about litlife online on this edition of the TLS podcast.