So it turns out that right around the time Daniel Mendelsohn‘s remarks about critics vs. bloggers caused a minor stir in these parts, Birminingham-Southern College was hosting a literary conference called Writing Today where, among other speakers, Richard Schickel laid the hate on blogs but good. We don’t have the exact quote, but Anne Glamore of the blog My Tiny Kingdom was there, and she sums his argument up neatly: “He… said that blogging is for idiots. That no one reads a blog except your mother and maybe your cousin, and that it’s stupid to write without getting paid for it. If I heard him correctly, he described blogs as the ‘near beer’ of the writing world.”*
Glamore says she tried to challenge Schickel during the Q&A about being “mistaken in his belief that there are no talented, serious writers on the internet.” She recalls her counter-argument: “There are thousands of blogs, but those that succeed do so based on content—the writing. He cut me off by saying that a critic’s job is to criticize, and then announced that he doesn’t read blogs.” Doesn’t read blogs? Yes, another conference attendee confirms the remark, adding, “This from a man who had just told us how carefully he studies a film before he writes his review.”
Schickel’s daughter, Erika Schickel, pops up in the comments to Glamore’s post, and confirms, “My pop is indeed an opinionated, curmudgeonly, coot—and nothing delights him more than pissing people off. He’s loving this inasmuch as he’s following it.” Funny, you know who else is widely described as loving to watch the shit they stir up with their public proclamations? Bloggers, that’s who.
*I hope that when Schickel was denouncing writing without getting paid, he at least had the good grace to quote Johnson on the subject. And let it be said before we get too far along here that he and I had a great conversation about his Clint Eastwood biography about a decade ago, and I thought his Elia Kazan biography was very effective, even though I didn’t agree with all his positions. So we’re not hating on the guy’s talent, by any means. Not that we’re worried he’ll ever see this; after all, he doesn’t read blogs!