Brian Sholis is a freelance writer on the visual arts, and a former editor at Artforum. We've corresponded a number of times, and I enjoy his writing a great deal - he is thoughtful and insightful. So I was particularly interested to read this open question he recently posted on his website: (You can click on the image below to enlarge it.)
Now, I've been accused of being curmudgeonly and conservative, too, so I relate to the impulse and the attendant questions. And setting aside my obvious personal interest and involvement, my response hinges on Sholis's reliance on the word "unedited." (Though "online" is a close second.) First, the blurbs on the back are not from publications, they are classic blurbs, so they are no more edited than my copy. (And they don't exist in any form, other than a letter to a publisher.) Second, although all sorts of sloppiness can creep in here on a daily basis, the contents of my Recommended sidebar are approached with the same care I bring to my paid reviewing work. So I am generally confident that what you find there does not represent a slide in quality of standards over my print work.
But I think fundamentally, there's the ongoing question of the imprimatur of a print publication versus the contents of blog and its relevance to critical authority. I'd imagined the question somewhat settled by now but, as I said, I respect Brian and so if it gives him pause, I pause as well to consider it. I've come to believe that "authority" is, ultimately, earned over time as one provides readers with a voice and perspective they feel they can come to rely on. And clearly, in the six years I've been here, TEV has managed to do that, at least for some readers.
In the end, I wrote to Riemen's editor at Yale to inquire why my blurb had been selected for the cover. Here is what she said:
"To my mind, our reason for putting your quote on the cover speaks for itself. It was the most concise and eloquent evocation of the book's significance!"
I'm not sure there's a better answer to Brian's question than that, but I am interested in what my readers think about this. Do you feel a blog review does not belong on the cover of a book? Is it somehow less valuable than a review in other media? Does it do more harm than good? Let me know what you think.