When I got my advance copy of this weekend’s NYTBR in the mail today, I was amused and bemused to see that the cover review, Liesl Schillinger’s take on the Marisha Pessl novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, put “the pick-a-little, talk-a-little publishing blog brigade” and its response to Peshl’s book deal (“went into conniptions”) front-and-center. Fine, it’s dismissive of the blogosphere—but no more so than we dismiss the Review for its shortcomings, and far be it from us to say she doesn’t know the territory! (We can play the musical theater appreciation game, too, you know, all day long if we have to.)
Now, I’m not as annoyed by the tone of Schillinger’s rebuke of the blogosphere as Elegant Variation writer Mark Sarvas, who sees it as more knee-jerk defensiveness from entrenched print reviewers, displaying “a hostility toward and mistrust of blogs that seems to short-circuit the ability to reason soundly.” No, what bugs me is that she quotes our very own Sarah Weinman on “‘Hot Young Author Chick’ Syndrome” and doesn’t bother to give her a namecheck. Actually, the more serious flaw is that her other unidentified example, a headline about “Marisha Pessl’s Looks and Money,” isn’t from a blog at all, but from one of Jessa Crispin’s columns for The Book Standard. (Yes, I realize Crispin’s a blogger, but identifying her as such in this context is somewhat unsporting.) Then again, Schillinger not only fails to identify the writers she dismisses, one might argue she fundamentally misrepresents their work. “Conniptions” is simply not a word that can be used with any honesty to describe Crispin’s thoughtful analysis of how Pessl’s publicity team planned to counter the early buzz, and even Sarah’s post is more of an ironic commentary on the lazy shorthand newspaper reporters might use in describing Pessl. If there were genuine backstabbing naysayers out there who had it in for Special Topics, Schillinger hasn’t really come up with the goods.