“Gatekeeper”: Not a Four-Letter Word

In Salon, Louis Bayard and Laura Miller stress out over the potential demise of the critic. This is insider baseball to be sure (and Bayard’s a pal, though he didn’t tip me to the piece), but I was happy to see something on the subject that doesn’t simplistically frame the discussion as a journo-versus-blogger squabble. Using Ronan McDonald‘s new book, The Death of the Critic, as a launchpad, Bayard and Miller get into the roles of academia, the state of the reader, the state of the novel, (yes) the death rattle of newspaper book sections, and more. And I’m glad that Miller (who I briefly worked with ages ago on this project) is willing to plant her feet firmly and unapologetically respect the gatekeeping role of the journalist-critic:

I think of blogs not as alternatives to reviews or essays, but as a forum for short items, news and remarks, as well as links and responses to longer pieces posted on the sites that commission them. I could be wrong, though, as I’m not really a reader of blogs. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the book review sections of the New York and Los Angeles Times, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Bookforum, the Atlantic, Harper’s, TLS, the New Republic, etc., as well as the British newspapers like the Guardian and Independent, which I read online. Yet even in those publications I often find that the pieces I’m excited to be reading are the exception rather than the rule. I’m all for cultural gatekeepers because there’s way more out there than I have time to read and it’s not always easy to find the best of it.

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