El trabajo ajeno
Me robo el estupendo título del proyecto (¿frustrado? ¿detenido? ¿colapsado? ¿postergado? ¿olvidado?) que teníamos con Gustavo Faverón y otros bloggers de hacer un blog con reseñas propias y ajenas, para comentar este post en los blogs de The Guardian en el que John Sutherland certifica la lenta extinción de los críticos literarios, constatada por la desaparición de suplementos de crítica literaria en diversos países, y la cada vez menor importancia que se le da a la crítica en Inglaterra. ¿A qué se debe? Sutherland ennumera tres razones. La primera, y no poco importante, es que ser un crítico literario ya no es sexy:
1. Lit-crit is inherently unsexy. The piece everyone's talking about this week is Kathryn Hughes's slashing-claw diatribe against fellow-biographer, Amanda Foreman. Why is it so front-page newsworthy? Because it comes trailing a picture of the delectable Amanda in the altogether. Generally, however, lit-crit (unlike sport, or film, or theatre, or dance) is testosterone poor. You can sex up every other section of the paper, but seldom, if ever, the literary pages. And sexy is the flavour of our times.
La segunda, la siempre difícil relación, en varios aspectos, entre académicos y reseñas literarias:
2. Lit-crit has been ruined by the academics. In the 1960s, with the expansion of the universities, literary editors discovered they had access to a new source of labour. More importantly, one that would write for pennies, had oodles of spare time and could spell. Enter the academic reviewer. Enter the miserly remuneration. At the TLS party a couple of weeks ago, I overheard this paper's senior political correspondent, Michael White, in conversation with the TLS editor, Peter Stothard. Having recently done a couple of pieces for Stothard's journal, White asked - in evident perplexity - "Can anyone actually live on reviewing?" No, Stothard conceded. Staff journalists can, but not freelance reviewers. For pointy-headed profs, it doesn't matter. Many would sell their children into slavery to pay for the privilege of a lead piece in, say, the Saturday Guardian Review. Unfortunately, excellent value (ie dirt cheap) as they are, academic reviewers come with heavy baggage. They can be dull. Really dull. Increasingly the Great British Public doesn't want a bloody academic review. Sad, but again the spirit of the age.
Y en tercer lugar, el espacio cada vez más reducido para ejercer la crítica (suplido actualmente por la blogósfera, pero con bemoles):
3. Lit-crit lives, but not in print. The most plausible explanation for hard-print lit-crit melting faster than the Arctic icecaps is flickering on the screen in front of you. On being leaving the LA Times, for example, the former literary editor, Steve Wasserman, joined a web-journal, truthdig.com. Steve can write, as well as edit, and he doesn't have to fight for space, or mind his mouth, any more. Free, free at last. One hears the echo on every truthdig lit-crit webpage. As literary pages have withered, literary blogs have bloomed. Everyone will have their favourite lit-blog. Mine, until he took a sabbatical at the end of last year, is grumpyoldbookman.blogspot.com. There are, literally, hundreds to choose from. Free of charge. When you come down to it, lit-crit is opinion. The liveliest opinion and the sharpest exchanges are currently to be found on the weblog. One's only reservation is that, writing against the clock, bloggers often write hastily and thoughtlessly. The blogosphere, under pressure, is doing for literary style - the elegance, for example, of a John Carey or an AS Byatt - what texting has done for punctuation. There, you'll realise, speaks grumpyoldlitcritman. An endangered species, I fear.