In today’s Full Stop, Amanda Shubert interviews Wendy Lesser, founding editor of Threepenny Review. (I recommend Full Stop for a diverse and provocative discussion of literary topics, if you haven’t checked out this site before.) Asked what effect the blog culture has on criticism in the arts, Lesser states:
I think it has not been good for slow thoughtfulness, which is essential for good criticism. The fact that you can put down everything you think in brief installments, immediately, works against the kind of simmering, long-term effect that I think works best for a considered response to artworks (including books).
On how to cultivate that kind of slow thoughtfulness:
Read voraciously and for extended periods of time. Reread books at intervals of a decade or so; you will be surprised how they change. Don’t artificially exclude any kinds of knowledge or ideas when you are writing about books – everything (the author’s life, the times he lived in, the contents of his other books, etc.) is fair game. On the other hand, remember that the written text is primary and everything else, including your own opinions, is secondary.
I read a wide range of media to research ideas for this blog, from personal blogs to blog aggregators, interest-based news sites, and online versions of magazines and newspapers. I’m limited, like all of us, only by time.
But now many of us have a choice to make about paying for content. The New York Times announced today that it will begin requiring a subscription for access to its digital version. Pricing will vary for packages including computer, smartphone, and/or tablet computer access. Non-subscribers can still read up to 20 articles per month for free; to me, that's not much. Interestingly, articles accessed by a blog or social networking link can also be read for free. Stay tuned to find out whether other publications will follow suit.
Spending too much time on handheld devices not reading? Check out Mike Tyson’s method for curing your Angry Bird addiction.