From author Jonathan Carroll, we are pointed to this article in The Village Voice that addresses literary tours and criticism on the blogosphere. Interesting in parts, but what is somewhat noteworthy is this passage:
“A lot of those people almost ruined that experience for me,” notes Robert Mackey, a writer for The New York Times website, referring to writing The Climb, a blogged account of his time riding much of the Tour de France route this summer as a novice cyclist. While the overwhelming number of comments were positive, Mackey found that a group of self-described “bike snobs” kept sparking dozens of “weird, angry” comments that he had to edit, including the bizarre contention that he had no “right” to do what he was doing, or even that he should hand over his bike to a poorer, more “worthy” cyclist—a demand made by the cyclist himself. It was a black-hole conversation, one that produced infinite heat and no light.
“It was an unbelievable experience—like editing graffiti,” remembers Mackey. “It makes you feel awful about the world.”
This was, ultimately, Strauss’s complaint. In the end, it all worked out. He was able to score appearances on Good Morning America and The Craig Ferguson Show—not easy gigs for a literary novelist these days. More Than It Hurts You did well and is now in its third printing. The only thing missing, as so often is the case in fin de Bush America, is any intellectual engagement: No wider argument about his indictments of American culture or his writing; no discussion on whether or not Munchausen’s-by-proxy is a real, widespread mental disorder.
I understand that digs against President Bush are de rigeur; I mean, he can be blamed for everything from bridges collapsing to the likely demise of the American automobile industry. The wider question is: how does a sitting President inform, influence, or alter American culture? If there’s a lack of intellectual engagement (leaving aside the idea that just because people aren’t discussing the things you like to talk about, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t intellectually engaged), is that a sign of the times, or a direct result of whose rear end occupies the Oval Office? Did blow jobs become more common because of President Clinton’s marital infidelity? If Al Gore had been elected President, would we now be far more intellectually engaged in topics that Village Voice columnists approve of? Did Kerry’s defeat doom us to four more years of discussing baseball, tuna casserole recipes, and dick jokes instead of loftier subjects?
Or maybe people just don’t give a fuck about yet another author’s searing indictment of some aspect of American culture, and Kevin Baker should just get over it.