Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Birkerts, blah, blah, blah, blog

Alex Good on the stupidity of the blogs vs. print reviewing question. He's bang on. I don't review books on CLM because no one asks me to and certainly no one's going to pay me to. I only started reviewing books in the first place because I was asked to do it. Book reviewing is journalism and, as Dr. Johnson said, writing for reasons other than payment is foolish. Granted, I'm frequently foolish, but my folly knows limits. Sometimes. I have reviewed books for no, or nominal, payment in the past, but I'm less and less inclined to do so. Vita brevis and all that. The cheapest work I do now is $40 for 500 words. Although if you worked out a per-word--or worse, per-hour--rate for some of my longer essays, it would make sweatshop sneaker assembly look lucrative by comparison.


Carmine said...

The actual quote from Samuel Johnson is "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

Zachariah Wells said...

Thanks, Carmine. I last read it around ten years ago, so wasn't too confident putting quotation marks around it. But the gist certainly stuck with me...

Brian Campbell said...

Occasionally, I do brief poetry reviews with quotes of poetry on my blog. Actually, I'm inclined to call them critical or even not-so-critical appreciations, since I'm under no obligation to be thorough here. Nevertheless, one of these, a post on Barbara Pelman's One Stone (Ekstasis Editions, 2005) ended up, in expanded form, being printed as a full-page review in the Pacific Rim Review of Books. Another series of posts got the attention of the editor of The Rock Salt Plum review, and got revised into a full article in the on that online magazine (you can find a link to that on my sidebar). Did I get paid for these? No, but they were good experiences to add to the CV... and samples to show.

The line between online and print reviewing is not so hard and fast as Alex Good makes out. Maybe he's never read Simon DeDeo's brilliant flash poem reviews (nobody is doing anything like that in print reviews as far as I know), or Ron Silliman's exhaustive reviewing of certain "Post-Avant" writers. And as for payment, the difference between a pittance and a nullity may be made up by the flexibility and universal access online publishing affords.

All best,

Brian Campbell

(P.S. You're on my blogroll)