The Sunday Salon: Graffiti Reviews

Yesterday, editor and author William Giraldi reviewed Bill Henderson’s Rotten Reviews Redux: A Literary Companion. This, in and of itself, is not particularly noteworthy. What is noteworthy is Giraldi’s utter hatred for book bloggers. (I assume one of us killed his parents.) Taking Henderson’s introduction, where Henderson despairs of the attitudes that anonymity produces, as a jumping off point, Giraldi shows his hand. Book bloggers are “leeches”, “shit” as opposed to “serious”, full of “unlettered opinions with scarcely more authority than the feral scratching in Cro-Magnon’s diary”, “a community of coddlers who approach literature as if it were a Sunday knitting circle”. To quote (because I’m a masochist):

Literature to these online cabals is a social event and not an artistic endeavor; they congregate to swap recipes of cuisine no discerning person would ever care to eat. The idea that a novel can be garbage, and that a critic has the imperative to call it such, is anathema to their aspartame outlook; these vast middle-strata scribes have turned to writing, apparently, because Habitat for Humanity is too demanding. The concept of incessant community in literature is preposterous to begin with. In his Nobel speech Hemingway delivered a truism only a counterfeit could deny: “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,” and of course he means that writing at its best must be a lonely life. All those dysphasic Tweets and Facebook posts and status updates of the status-less? They’re an easeful substitute for the hellish emotional and psychological confrontation that genuine literary work requires.

In short, book bloggers, in Giraldi’s estimation, are all middle-class, middle-aged women who enjoy talking about books with each other, and, skewed statistics aside, this is somehow bad. You see, Giraldi believes that “the critic’s credentials [are] the assertion of an aesthetic and moral sensibility wedded to a deep erudition”, or, as I tweeted yesterday, “YOU CAN’T JUST WALK IN HERE WITH YOUR OPINIONS AND YOUR BEING LADIES”. Giraldi’s utter disgust leads him to state that any review written by a book blogger “identical to seeking relationship advice on the wall of a public restroom”.

“Well”, book bloggers said on Twitter yesterday, “if it’s only fit for the bathroom walls, so be it!” Cass started it with her tweet, “FOR A GOOD TIME READ BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK #graffitireviews“, which spawned many a funny tweet, but I suggested we take it to the streets. And the toilets.

The concept of Graffiti Reviews is simple (and similar to Operational Beautiful): while out and about (and especially if nature calls!), leave a sticky note with a book recommendation somewhere. You can use something from the Twitter hashtag or a simple “For a good time, read…”; just make sure you include the hashtag #graffitireviews. Take a picture of it, post it to Twitter with the hashtag #graffitireviews, or submit it to the fancy new tumblr Cass cooked up yesterday. If people like Giraldi think that the true literati are the few, the chosen, the extraordinarily lonely, then that leaves us everybody else to share the love with. Book and writing communities, especially the sprawling salon that is the book blogger community, are hugely important; let’s build them one step at a time. Get your pen, get your sticky note, and get some good recommendations out there, people of the Internet!


This week has been… bumpy, bumpy is the word for it. I was feeling quite out of sorts on Thursday and a bit sick on Friday, but I’ve had a lot of work to tackle, which always calms me down. I got through In Other Worlds and World War Z, which is a definite improvement on my reading in the past few weeks! Now, to get those pesky finals and senior thesis out of the way…

TheOneRing.Net is giving away a frankly amazing The Hobbit prize pack until the eighteenth.

I don’t have a question for y’all this week; just a invitation to flyer the streets with book recommendations. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation” is our official theme song. Get cracking.

26 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Graffiti Reviews

  1. Pingback: Smugglivus 2012: Week 1 Schedule | The Book Smugglers

  2. Hurrah for #=graffitireviews I love that way you ran with it and am so eager to spread the word — I look forward to surprise book talk in public bathrooms everywhere 😉

  3. Wow I can’t believe those comments, they’re so malicious it does make you wonder what we have done to him! Great idea about graffitireviews and hope it catches fire! (not literally 🙂

  4. Pingback: Graffiti reviews | liveselectric

  5. Pingback: Do Book Review Bloggers Need Credentials? | The Misfortune Of Knowing

  6. Pingback: Linkspam, 12/7/12 Edition — Radish Reviews

  7. Turning something so insane into a positive and fun thing? Genius! My college’s bathrooms are getting some of these.

    Art is subjective, everyone has different tastes and if you only get opinions from the “proper” reviews than you could miss out on a lot of great books.

  8. Pingback: November 2012 Reading Wrap-Up « Amy Reads

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