Chicken Spaghetti found an essay in The Guardian regarding what really sounds very much like a pissing match (I can't think of a more genteel term) between a critic and a writer/blogger. According to Rachel Cooke, the author of the essay, the argument is over "what effect is the internet having on criticism?"
She goes on to say a number of harsh things about litbloggers and basically questions their ability to critique books. If they were better, they'd get paid for it.
I think everyone involved is laboring under the misconception that litblogs are about critiquing books. They aren't.
How many literary blogs truly are just one review after another? Not many of the ones I visit every day. Litbloggers cover "news"--who's got a new book out, what someone else said about it, who is going to appear where, what they did at said appearance. They talk about industry events they've attended. They talk about author sightings.
That's not criticism, folks. That's a fansite.
Just a month or two ago the kidlitblog world got into a discussion on whether or not so-called negative reviews should be posted. Many reviewers said they wouldn't do them, in part because they didn't finish reading books they didn't like or didn't read books they didn't like. Thus they aren't doing traditional "criticism" at all, and they aren't pretending to do so. They are making their readers aware of books they liked.
Now, I'm sure some people will see the words "fan" and "fansite" and become horrified because they're going to start thinking "Star Trek" and perhaps comic book conventions and write-in campaigns to save cult TV shows. Well, yeah, exactly. Do you think because we read books we're superior to other fans? Don't kid yourself. My eyes were opened this summer when I attended a Twilight Zone convention and felt as if I'd just walked into every author event I've ever been part of.
I love to read a good, professional, critical review as much as the next person. But out here in the carbon-based world, I don't know too many other people who do.
Literary criticism has existed for generations. It doesn't seem to be doing much to keep literature afloat right now. For years we've been reading about book sales suffering, reading in decline, the end of the written word. It's like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but...so what?
The literary world needs a fan base. Litbloggers are providing it. Don't confuse it with critism.