In Praise Of Book Bloggers

John Self defends the place of bloggers in the firmament of literary criticism against attacks from Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the TLS and Man Booker Prize judge:

The books that [Sir Peter] Stothard and I both want to celebrate – those with "extraordinary and exhilarating prose" – tend to come from the edges rather than the centre, and increasingly from small presses. He would surely agree, as his panel has this year chosen a Booker shortlist on which half the titles come from tiny independents: Salt, And Other Stories and Myrmidon. These are the publishers who get more attention from bloggers than they do from the literary press, because a one-person blog has a flexibility and manoeuvrability that larger literary publications lack. When Deborah Levy's Swimming Home, one of the most interesting titles on the shortlist, was published last October, the first national newspaper review, in the Guardian, was by a blogger – me, in fact. Most other papers didn't cover it until it was longlisted for the Booker.

The greatest tool bloggers have at their disposal – to be exercised with caution – is space. Former fiction editor of the TLS, Lindsay Duguid, said that "in a short review, you can probably only get over three points". A blog can explore a book at a length that all but the most prominent literary critics would envy.

Norm Geras adds two cents.