What is so interesting about the row that has started over bloggers and reviews between various members of the literati (including Susan Hill, John Sutherland and Rachel Cooke) isn’t so much the content of the argument – that those reviewing on the web are doing it for free and therefore can be irresponsible and the web might be having a negative impact on criticism – but the fact that this debate is happening in the way it is.
It just proves the power of the web to galvanise provide a platform for debate that can evolve a lot more quickly than the letters page of a national newspaper and can involve more people.
If there is a lesson here it is clearly that no one can have a monopoly on criticism. Sure there are going to be people who abuse the open access the web provides but more voices are better than one. Just because someone on the web might not be a reviewer for the TLS or equivalent doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to share an opinion. What is happening now might be a case of a few people trying, after it’s too late, to pull the ladder up and keep bloggers out of the literary club.