Monday, August 06, 2012

Today We're Too Nice. But Back In The Day...

Against Enthusiasm in Slate deals with "The epidemic of niceness in online book culture." The author, Jacob Silverman, says, "if you spend time in the literary Twitter- or blogospheres, you'll be positively besieged by amiability, by a relentless enthusiasm that might have you believing that all new books are wonderful and that every writer is every other writer's biggest fan. It's not only shallow, it's untrue, and it's having a chilling effect on literary culture, creating an environment where writers are vaunted for their personal biographies or their online followings rather than for their work on the page."

Personally, I think he makes a lot of good points. When everything that's discussed in the on-line literary world is wonderful, doesn't "wonderful" become meaningless?

On the other hand, writers of the past didn't worry much, or maybe at all, about being nice, especially to other writers. When Writers Attack...Other Writers is a slideshow of literary battles.

I remember hearing about the Mary McCarthy/Lillian Hellman thing at the time it was going on, though I didn't know a lot about it--just the "every word is a lie" bit. When I was young, I was a fan of the idea of Dorothy Parker. Oh, how I loved witty repartee. Well, I'm older and wiser, and these days I wonder if Dorothy P. wasn't an early practitioner of literary snark.

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