Where’s the Literary Slate?

At Dissent, Morris Dickstein worries about whether literary book culture will survive the Internet, and says the following about blogs:

[I]t’s striking that there are twenty successful political blogs for each effective literary blog. With all due respect to Critical Mass, the valuable website of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, there’s not a single must-read literary blog I turn to on a regular basis. The ones that I do read are linked to print magazines like the New Yorker, the New Republic, or the Atlantic, or the ones actually modeled on print magazines, such as Slate and Salon or gateway sites like Arts & Letters Daily. But will the online extensions of print journals still thrive when the magazines themselves go under, as some surely will when they run out of millionaires nostalgic for the old print culture who are willing to subsidize them. What will happen to online journalism, especially investigative journalism, when it destroys the print journalism on which it feeds, or to aggregator sites when they find themselves aggregating only from other websites?

Did you catch Dickstein’s first question? Here it is again:

[W]ill the online extensions of print journals still thrive when the magazines themselves go under, as some surely will when they run out of millionaires nostalgic for the old print culture who are willing to subsidize them.

Does this mean Dickstein has given himself over to resignation (Thoreau’s confirmed desperation)? No:

[C]ritical writing has a small niche, but will it acquire a real presence? Deployed with technical savvy, it can become a form of resistance, a rampart of personal vision within a relentlessly homogenized culture, ever in thrall to the fashions of the moment. Thanks to its open grid and easy access, the same technology that marginalizes literature and drowns out criticism leaves room for dissent, for the still, small voice that may yet find ways to be heard.

Nicely put. As a start, maybe we need a literary version of Slate (or, at least, The Week).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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