One of the reasons I joined Twitter a couple months ago was to breach what I felt was an uncomfortable divide between myself and the greater literary world. Does this sound pretentious? Stupid? It's probably a bit of both. For so long, I had seen bloggers shifting towards Twitter for their quicker thoughts and opinions, for wit and for a much simpler blogger-publisher connection. And blogger-author bonds, for those who read a lot of books by living, English-speaking authors. To put it simply: I wanted in.
Whether or not my attempt to enter the Twitterverse has been successful is up to debate; what isn't is my new awareness for aspects of the literary world that I never even imagined. Bloggers give each other advice, talk directly to publishers, authors, bookstores... it's rather incredible*. There's an entire community of book lovers who live only on Twitter, just like those who live on Youtube, or Tumblr, or even here in what I think of as "book blogging central".
This is a long and hesitant opening to what is a rather difficult post to write. Because a few hours ago, I witnessed a fairly painful, intense argument between many different book bloggers I follow. I don't particularly feel like linking to it, but the argument (in Hebrew I would say "ספק דיון, ספק ויכוח", essentially meaning not really a discussion, implying an argument...) covered topics ranging from authors involvement on blogs to the definition of bullying and... more.
I mostly want to talk about the first point. Like I said earlier, part of the reason I started using Twitter in the first place was to be a bit closer to authors and publishers. When I write a review of a book, I don't assume the author or the editor or the publisher are actually reading my review**. I write reviews for two purposes: firstly, to share my thoughts on a book with other readers, and secondly for myself - I enjoy the process of approaching a book from different angles, whether analytically, critically, emotionally or anything else.
But here's the catch: I don't object to authors reading my reviews. And I definitely don't mind if they want to talk to me about my thoughts. I know that authors have been trained to avoid responding to negative reviews (and let's be honest, most of my reviews are not exactly glowing), but I have no problem with an author politely engaging me in a debate. I probably won't change my opinion on the book, though it will certainly change my approach. Vaddey Ratner probably wouldn't like my reviews of In the Shadow of the Banyan. But if she wanted to tell me why she chose to avoid subtlety and why she opted for certain tropes I felt were cliches, I would listen. I would probably also gain something from it.
I understand that some readers want a bit of distance between themselves and authors. It's not easy to have that "face-to-face" interaction. I understand getting frustrated by authors who leave defensive comments on reviews. Not everyone wants to deal with it, and I'm not sure they have to. I honestly don't know. But I definitely think that authors have the right to respond (politely), and I feel like it might be a bit of a double standard to invite certain authors for interviews and allow them that personal interaction, but then avoid interaction with authors who maybe aren't as thrilled with your appraisal. But... it depends. And not wanting it and expressing that feeling, while maybe not something I personally agree with, isn't bullying. So there's also that.
I don't really know how to summarize these thoughts. I know pockets of arguments like this often crop up online and will probably continue to exist until long after I've quit this corner of the internet***. I can only hope for calmer discourse in the future, and maybe this is the advantage of old-school blogging - we have to pause and take the time to really think about what we're writing... and even then, we may not have all the answers.
* The other day I tweeted a recommendation for the next Goodreads app update. I received a response. Whether or not they actually take my advice to heart, someone noticed.
** This is in large part because I have a generally under-the-radar blog, which can be both a blessing and a... something boring and unnoticed.
*** Not something I'm planning on doing any time soon. I know, I know, so disappointing...