Tour’s Books Blog

April 28, 2009

Battling Blogs – The Romancelandia SMACKDOWN!

Filed under: Editorial,General,opinion — toursbooks @ 5:15 pm
Tags: ,

Well, who would have thought a genre that is all about love and freedom would give birth to a snide and snippy presentation where one presenter took potshots at another presenter at a Princeton conference?  I’m laughing here.  What other response can there be?

I did not attend the Princeton Conference, but I was following some of the blog and twitter posts of various attendees.  Mostly it seemed to do with complaints about tedious presentations with buried gems of insights and the usual carping that such events incur in any field.  And me wondering why people feel this need to share minutiae of zero consequence with thousands via Twitter?

Well, in middle of this otherwise sedate mutual admiration society there was an unexpected turn of events.  Blogger Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance: B(u)y the Book did a presentation that knocked blogs that are less ladylike, sedate and intellectual than her own.  She did this with none other than Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell sitting next to her.  (That takes nerves of steel or a deeply seated desire to commit internet suicide.)  Then, just to make sure she’s made her point, she posts the text of her talk on her blog here.  (I’m now leaning to terminal hubris as an explanation.)

Now, you didn’t think those bloggers were about to give this sly swipe at them a pass, did you?  As of today on Smart Bitches and Dear Author, we officially have a SMACKDOWN!

I, oblivious soul that I am, spent my weekend finishing Death of a Cozy Writer and doing a review, answering some questions over on the Amazon forums.  Though I read a lot of it, romance isn’t exactly my first love, mysteries and action intrigue thrillers are, so my interest is somewhat limited, but the community is active and fun so I follow it.  This is just too good to pass up.

Now, were I seized by a fit of insanity and decided to start a fight about romance blogs, (My blog’s better than your blog, My blog’s better than yours) the ones I would NEVER take on are Smart Bitches or Dear Author.  Why?  Well, agree or not, the women running those blogs are smart, savvy, opinionated, and pretty much fearless.  Do I always agree?  No.  Do they sensationalize?  Yes.  But as I said on another blog about author influence on open dialogue, neither pretends to be The New York Times.  I don’t read news from one perspective, why would I read opinion from one perspective?  That’s like only reading things that reinforce your own opinions, never those that challenge them.  I know it’s great to be agreed with – really massages the old ego – but no alternate view said loudly and perhaps aggressively?  Not a good idea.  A little self-examination and questioning doesn’t hurt.

I have no intention of dissecting Ms. Buonfiglio’s presentation; others are having way too much fun mocking her excessive prose and taking apart her arguments.  The language and content was, intended or not, both patronizing and condescending.  More importantly it did something I dislike, it attacked by innuendo.  When you strike out in a generalized fashion without citing specifics or supplying examples, well that is just insulting – and it’s bad academic form.  If you don’t like what ABC is doing, then say ‘ABC is an example of what’s wrong and here’s why.’  That way ABC has a fair chance to respond to the criticism.  By refusing to acknowledge ‘who’ she spoke of, Buonfiglio committed the worst sort of cowardly assault by insinuation.  How do you fight that?  Now all she has to do is smile innocently and say, “Really dear, I never said it was you.”

If Ms. Buonfiglio has an issue with Smart Bitches or Dear Author, that’s ok – just admit it.  Agree or not, I can respect that.  I think they go over the top at times too, and yes, their loyal fans would eat alive any poster who dared defy the mob mentality.  OK. I can see where avid fans, cliques, and abrasive commentary can be counterproductive to real discussion.  (You should see what happens in the science fiction and fantasy genres!)  I do not disagree with any of that.  Emotionalism can get in the way and yes, both sites are prone to it, but if that’s an issue, just say so.  If you haven’t got the strength of your convictions to stand and fight, please do NOT hide behind a false façade of civility and coyly decline to name names.  Jessica brought up a related topic on the presence of authors inhibiting a free exchange of commentary her Racy Romance blog and cited examples on other people’s blogs.  My response cited specific instances on DA where I was unwilling to comment and why.  Again, I linked to the specific cases I was using to illustrate my point.

I haven’t been following romance blogs for that long, maybe 4-6 months.  Not because I am so interested, but because at the moment work is slow and I have time on my hands.  Yes, I’ve noticed that Smart Bitches delight in the kind of hyperbole that you get with some of the popular ‘commentators’ on sports and news.  So does Dear Author.  What’s the harm?  Is Romancelandia such a fragile place it can’t withstand diversity?  I’ve never seen either blog go after another blog for stylistic differences.  They always had a specific point to make, and issue based solely on content.  If your blog is the sedate country club or tea room and DA and SBTB are the loud, noisy bars with folks shouting to be heard and lots of laughter – maybe less esoteric discussion, is that a bad thing?  Is the tea room a ‘better’ one?  And it should be noted that Teach Me Tonight did a review and analysis of Beyond Heaving Bosoms that took issues with a lot of very specific points.  Candy Tan replied very respectfully, and maybe a little defensively, but it’s her baby.  No big deal.  It was more a question of perspective and intended audience than anything as far as I’m concerned.

It’s the difference between Jim McKay and John Madden.  Each a brilliant sportscaster   McKay’s style was the knowledgeable, reserved and controlled commentary of the professional observer who always strove for accuracy, balance and fairness.  With Madden you got a charismatic man emotionally involved the game he played and coached who wanted to share his enthusiasm and expertise.  No one knew more about how pro football was played than he did.  His exuberance was nicely balanced by the calm partners he always had in the booth.  McKay could never be Madden, and Madden could never be McKay.  And that was a GOOD thing.  I cannot for the life of me envision John Madden handling the terrorist assault on the Berlin Olympics in 1972.  Nor can I imagine Jim McKay breathing life into a deadly dull Thanksgiving football game by doing a diagram of how a turkey has 8 legs.

Anyone who assumes that the ‘best’ format for an exchange of ideas is always polite, respectful conversation obviously never read what our founding fathers had to say about each other in person and in their writings.  Passion is intemperate.  Loud.  Raucous.  That’s not right or wrong – it just is.  This is not a mathematical equation with one solution.  It’s opinion.  I might be a loud-mouthed, ignorant, pretentious, self-appointed arbiter of what’s right or wrong with romance who appeals to the unwashed masses, but I’m still entitled to my opinion and if you disagree with me, hey, speak up!  Or maybe I’m a snobbish, intellectual, anal retentive, elitist academic with pretensions of greatness who appeals to those who Take Everything Very Seriously, but I’m entitled to my opinion too!  Or maybe I’m just a furry little groundhog bystander who longs to yell at both sides – “You know, if any of you were half as talented as the fiction authors you write and blog about, you’d be sitting over there with them!  Get over yourselves already!  You make your living and/or reputations on OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK!”   The problem with that is, I have the gall to criticize the work of others myself, so I’m no better.  In my defense, I don’t see myself as an opinion maker, so maybe I’m safe. 🙂  Glass houses and all that.

I have to tell you, I’m enjoying the show.  It would be better with a bunch of half naked buff guys, but hey, I love watching stuff like this.  Who needs those idiot reality shows?  It’s Romancelandia SMACKDOWN!

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