Wycoller in Lancashire, not far as the crow flies from Haworth, is a fascinating village. Tucked away down a lane rarely used by traffic it leads to Wycoller Beck with a ford and seven of the quaintest of ancient bridges. Virtually abandoned in the early twentieth century after the Water Board bought up land with the intention of flooding the village for a reservoir it has been spared modernisation: there is no car-width bridge looming over the packhorse or clapper bridges and trees grow right up to the river and the road.
In the thick trees at the bottom lies the ruins of Wycoller Hall often thought to be the building Charlotte Brontë had in mind when describing Ferndean Manor:
The manor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerable antiquity, moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep buried in a wood. I had heard of it before. Mr. Rochester often spoke of it, and sometimes went there. His father had purchased the estate for the sake of the game covers. He would have let the house, but could find no tenant, in consequence of its ineligible and insalubrious site. Ferndean then remained uninhabited and unfurnished, with the exception of some two or three rooms fitted up for the accommodation of the squire when he went there in the season to shoot.
To this house I came just ere dark on an evening marked by the characteristics of sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain. The last mile I performed on foot, having dismissed the chaise and driver with the double remuneration I had promised. Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it. Iron gates between granite pillars showed me where to enter, and passing through them, I found myself at once in the twilight of close-ranked trees. There was a grass-grown track descending the forest aisle between hoar and knotty shafts and under branched arches. I followed it, expecting soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on and on, it wound far and farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.
I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way. The darkness of natural as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me. I looked round in search of another road. There was none: all was interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer foliage—no opening anywhere.
I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little; presently I beheld a railing, then the house—scarce, by this dim light, distinguishable from the trees; so dank and green were its decaying walls. Entering a portal, fastened only by a latch, I stood amidst a space of enclosed ground, from which the wood swept away in a semicircle. There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow: the front door was narrow too, one step led up to it. The whole looked, as the host of the Rochester Arms had said, “quite a desolate spot.” It was as still as a church on a week-day: the pattering rain on the forest leaves was the only sound audible in its vicinage.
Jane Eyre, CHAPTER XXXVII
Since the Water Board sold the land to Lancashire County Council in the 1970s people have moved back to many of the cottages, and some of the agricultural buildings have been converted creating a very charming unspoilt village with just one shop/tea room as a nod to the tourism. Tourists walk to the village from the car park outside, so it is not overrun with people, though it can get busy on sunny days in the school holidays. Rather off the beaten track as folks rush past to Haworth, the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District, it is well worth a detour.
The hall itself remains a dramatic ruin as accessible to the public as the elements, a complete piece of picturesque gothic.
We've lots of news about CL Hawley Books in the coming weeks. Behind the scenes we're establishing a new database which should make helping you find books on the most obscure topics so much easier. From your point of view we're also launching a new website in a few weeks time which should be easier to use with a quicker checkout. Whilst we're busy with this we're combining our book of the month offer and our newsletter together in a Bank Holiday sale weekend.
We hope to have news of the new website in time for June's newsletter.
If you haven't signed up for our newsletter yet you're missing 40% off all our books this bank holiday weekend. It is not too late to sign up and you'll be able to use the code until midnight on Monday.
Keeping up with news from small, independent family booksellers (new or used books) is a good way to support those businesses.
Newsletters remind you that we exist when you've forgotten which bookseller was so helpful and gave you really good advice though you didn't buy anything, or packed that book for your mum's birthday so well, or made the extra trip to the post when you ordered a book at 4.45pm that you needed the next day for a major deadline, or waded through knee-deep snow to get a inexpensive book that meant a lot to your wife to the post office in time for your wedding anniversary even though there was less than £1 profit in the sale! (I've done all those things!)
Many booksellers have email newsletters - do ask your favourite sellers and sign up!
As lots of you know I have a book newsletter that goes out by email roughly once a month. This is news of new stock that I've bought as well as some wider booknews that may be of interest to my core newsletter readers (who are mainly academics in the arts and humanities). There are also a number of offers the last being a massive 50% off for a day that was exclusive to my newsletters subscribers. I also include offers on newly published books as well as on my secondhand stock.
In addition to my main newsletter there is also a Book of the Month email most months with 20% off an interesting volume.
As the main newsletter focuses mainly on my academic stock I have decided to do occasional newsletters on children's books, twentieth century poetry, and local history. If you've bought a children's book, or a book on Yorkshire or Lancashire from me in the last 12 months then you'll be on the list to receive a copy of the relevant email. If you would like to receive one of these specialist emails then you'll need to sign up for the main newsletter here. If you're already on my mailing list but haven't bought a relevant book in the last 12 months then please drop me an email and let me know if you want to receive the children's, Lancashire, Yorkshire or twentieth century poetry so I can add that to your email account with me.
It goes without saying that your email address is between you and me only and I never, ever share details.
It has been a long while since I've done a reading round-up but here are a few of my recent favourites:
First up is Longbourn by Jo Baker. Longbourn is the story of Sarah, an orphan and young servant, who falls in love with a man with a mysterious past, a past much more violent and tragic than she can imagine. The narrative drive of the story largely comes from Sarah's inner life: her growing self-awareness and her emotions maturing into an intense love affair, and from the increasing hints about James' past which eventually become a full blown flashback.
Longbourn is both an engaging love story and a fluid easy-going piece of historical fiction that shows the past because it's there, rather than flaunting the writer's historical scholarship. Worn very lightly throughout both aspects is the fact that these servants, Sarah and those with whom she lives, are those of Jane Austen's Bennett family. This lightness belies the tight timescales that run in the background. When Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice, then Elizabeth takes Sarah there in Longbourn, and so on. If you've never read Pride and Prujudice you can still enjoy this book so gently is the relationship worn, but you will miss what is going on underneath.
For those that like to tinker about under the engines of fiction Longbourn is a particular treat. It doesn't take long ferreting about under the bonnet for you to realise what a brilliant development of the character of Mr Bennett in particular Baker has pulled off. Baker rather does Mrs Bennett's character a kindness at the end too. A thoroughly enjoyable, intelligent novel that I borrowed and now must buy my own copy. It is definitely one for several re-reads.
My other recent pleasure has been the discover of the Fiona Griffiths novels of Harry Bingham. Fiona is one of the most remarkable characters in crime fiction, up there with Lisbeth Salander and Flavia de Luce. A tiny, young, Cambridge philosophy graduate with a penchant for smoking dope, a crime boss father, a happy family life, but a deeply troubled few years in her past is not the usual pattern for the crime fiction detective. Fiona tries to balance her odd world perspective with those of her colleagues on 'planet normal'. The whole makes for three (so far) very moving, character driven works of fiction that happen to be crime novels. Bingham's creation of Fiona is incredibly real and nuanced and his achievement is breath-taking when, in the last novel, she spends a long time under-cover and her personality starts to melt into her role and vice versa. To create such a real character who is unstable, whose personality slips and slides, and yet feels like it belongs to a coherent whole is a remarkable achievement and I can't recommend this series enough.
I am missing Fiona greatly since I finished the last volume. All recommendations of character driven crime fiction gratefully recieved!
The UK book world has a new source of book recommendations. Shiny New Books has launched this week with its Spring edition. It is a quarterly online magazine focusing exclusively on new and forthcoming publications that will help you decide what to read next and why. The great thing is that the editors, Annabel, Victoria, Simon and Harriet, are probably already known to you from the blogosphere so you know you can trust their independence and their very good taste. They intend to cover new books mainly for the UK market and from a wide range of publishers.
I was on Shiny New Books for less than ten minutes before I read about not one but two books that have gone top of my wish list. If they can sell books to a bookseller then they're obviously on the right track!
I wish Annabel, Victoria, Simon and Harriet all the very best with their new venture.
Last Sunday, with my parents and mother-in-law, we went for lunch at the wonderful Pheasant Inn at Casterton in celebration of Mother's Day. Casterton is a stone's throw from Tunstall, now part of a parish where a Victorian ancestor of mine was vicar*, and where the Brontë sisters and the other girls from Cowan Bridge school went to church. It was a beautiful day so we went for a stroll after our meal and the church was looking lovely in the spring sunshine.
The church is mentioned in Mrs Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë and I've always been taken with the story of the poor girls huddled in the room above the door eating their cold lunch. Bathed in sunlight here the tiny window above the porch looks quaint, but the interior of that little space must have been very cold. Living in a stone house I know how long it takes to warm up even with hot sun on it!
Mrs Gaskell notes:
There was another trial of health common to all the girls. The path from Cowan Bridge to Tunstall Church, where Mr. Wilson preached, and where they all attended on the Sunday, is more than two miles in length, and goes sweeping along the rise and fall of the unsheltered country, in a way to make it a fresh and exhilarating walk in summer, but a bitter cold one in winter, especially to children whose thin blood flowed languidly in consequence of their half-starved condition. The church was not warmed, there being no means for this purpose. It stands in the midst of fields, and the damp mists must have gathered round the walls, and crept in at the windows. The girls took their cold dinner with them, and ate it between the services, in a chamber over the entrance, opening out of the former galleries.
*not William Carus Wilson (Mr Brocklehurst!), my ancestor was just a young curate at this time.
I'm not much given to posting pictures of my knitting or cooking in my book blog, not least as in both arts I'm more of a 'plain sewing' kind of girl rather than aiming for the visually decorative. In this case though I thought I could justify the exception. This, in the words of my friend Rachel from Bewitched by Stitch, is slow reading. A book (the old fashioned kind with pages and a cover) in a cute and practical knitted bag, which together with the advanced technology of your finger and the individual turning pages, should mean you're never without entertainment on the go.
The bag is big enough to take most paperback novels and perhaps a pencil or your sunglasses as well. The mattress stitched seam under the double thickness handle makes it feel strong and secure under the weight of your tome-of-choice and it is perfect for taking anywhere where you don't want to be caught without a book.
The pattern is by Knittipoliti and you can download it here. It is very well written - possibly the best written pattern I've come across. So often I am reduced looking at the pictures and working out what must be meant. Not here - no abiguity at all. It knits up very quickly too.
I enjoyed knitting it so much I've another under way in blue. Both colours are left overs from other projcts - it doesn't need much yarn at all, about 75g, so is perfect for using up lovely wool you have over. I think it makes the gift of a book truly special ... and I give a lot of books, so I think I'll be making lots more.
The book pictured is The Private World of Georgette Heyer from my stock, which you can view here, or here for another edition.
Something very sad is happening today. For those who do not know Jane Badger Books is ceasing trading and Jane writes about the decision here. Jane is one of the most knowledgeable specialist booksellers in the country. She ran her pony book online shop alongside a formidable bibliographical website providing encyclopaedic knowledge of all things pony book including, amongst a wealth of illustrations, profiles of over 1,100 authors. Many of you will be aware that she has recently published a book on the genre Heroines on Horseback. As well as being fascinating for the lay reader, for booksellers, or for anyone enrolled on the growing number of MAs in Children's Literature, it is a much needed resource in an under-explored area.
Jane has been a friendly and supportive colleague in the five or so years I've known her. We're both members of Ibooknet where she has been invaluable, and she was a strong and hardworking chairman during a difficult time. We've commented on each other's blogs and swapped jokes on twitter. We've discussed books, and selling, and customers, and dogs and hamsters, and on one occasion sparkly shoes and the possible addition of welly socks which explains where we both are sartorially! I got Jane onto twitter. She got me onto Facebook. We're not fully losing Jane because she will be keeping the informative side of what she does going, so she is not going away, but the fact she is no longer trading upsets me greatly. I buy my Flambards books from this woman for heaven's sake! The laws of supply and demand are getting it wrong if this kind of bookshop can't work!
What is particularly sad is that Jane ran a specialised shop with great expertise. Another very experienced bookdealer told me many years ago to specialise as it is the only true way to compete with the pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap model, or indeed what Jane calls the model of 'now' that has come about with the internet age. If a specialised dealer like Jane can't drag a reasonable living out of her expertise then, well, I'm frightened. Not just for my own business but for what the trade as a whole will look like in ten, or twenty years' time.
I know there has been a bit in the blogosphere this week about the impact of a certain website on book sales and book sellers. It is focused mainly on the new book trade but both sides of the trade are suffering together. You can read a lot of debate on Simon's blog here. Simon was on the wrong end of some unfortunate vitriol. That's not on. We need to debate this without blaming anyone. As Jane says it is not as though every bookseller in the country hasn't bought something from you-know-where.
Beyond that, I don't know what to say. I can't imagine what will happen next to our trade which supports reading for pleasure and education, supports collecting and completing and preserving, and is frankly dying on its feet.
In the meantime, if you would like to buy your literary criticism and theory from an independent dealer you know where I am. And you can sign-up to be the first to hear about new stock and discounts here.
"One day, a small boy's holographic entertainment fails, so he heads out to explore the streets of abandoned shops outside. Down a forgotten alley he discovers the last ever bookshop... "
The Last Bookshop is a charming short film (20 mins) that imagines a future where physical books have died out. There are some really delightful moments: when the boy first sees the massive wall of books, when he gets lost amongst the shelves, and when he tries to open the book using touch screen movements! What are stories? What are customers? What is money? The boy asks.
I was also amused to see that bookselling attire clearly is not anticipated to change much in the next fifty years! Of course I sit here everyday in tweeds, a tie, and pince-nez!
After a strangly balletic start, the dystopian future plays out in a bookshop ignored by the giant multinational corperation who now owns all the rights to all written words. Provided no money changes hands, the shop is permitted to exist, and the owner becomes oddly threatened by the enthusiasm of his new customer.
The message, I guess, is that we'll get the bookselling and retail future we deserve.
Having mentioned recently that I had still not read Swallows and Amazons but that I was familiar with the bunloaf mentioned therein, I found myself standing in front of a copy in the town library whilst I was waiting for my daughter and pounced!
I have finally read and thoroughly enjoyed Swallows and Amazons and I have reviewed it on my YA book blog here.
I was glad to see bunloaf mentioned so often but a bit disappointed that there was not a description of it at all. Ah well, you can't have everything...
Much though I loved the book, I do wonder what modern children would make of it, and I muse along those lines in my review. If you've experience of reading with a child or a children's book group, or know a teen who has recently read the book, I would be grateful for any feedback as to its genuine enjoyability for 9-14 year olds, rather than its appeal for middle aged booksellers! The comments are open over there.
Walter Tull is believed to be the first black outfield player in British top flight football. In the years before the first world war he was a forward with first Tottenham and then Northampton Town. This is remarkable enough but his sad childhood (death of mother then father) ended with a decade in a children's home in Bethnal Green. He shared this time with a brother for the first two years but the brother was adopted by a couple from Glasgow separating Walter from this last link with his family. Football appears to have then become Tull's life.
But with the story of any young man in early twentieth century Europe one always knows what is coming: four long grinding years of war - if you live that long. Walter volunteered for the First Footballers' Batallion and served with distinction for nearly all the war, becoming one of the first black officers (which was in itself against the rules) and being recommended for the military cross, an award inexplicably denied him. Walter lost his life in the March of the last year of the war in the spring offensive of 1918. A fellow footballer risked his life to try rescue Walter's body but it couldn't be done and Walter is one of many with no known grave.
The Octagon's version of Walter's life is a remarkable piece of theatre. Eight men and women with no props, no set, and a muted 'costume' of neutral colours in stretchy fabric produce in that tiny space in the round: a Kent childhood, a boisterous children's home, football training, aggressive matches, the searing liquid anger of the terraces, the politics of war and peace and women's suffrage, and the small scale development of the character of one man in a context of extraordinary circumstances. Phil Vasili's script is tight and exciting but leaves plenty of space for the emotional ride of Walter's life too.
Every inch of space was used. Dozens of characters were portrayed with actors slipping effectively from one accent to another, one characterto another, two scenes often playing at once. It was all so seamless, and there was never any doubt what or whom you were watching. The cast's skill at characterisation was remarkable but almost paled into insignificance at what they achieved physically. The fights (childhood and adult, football and war) and the representation of the beautiful game itself were a triumph of choreography and execution. The standing ovation the cast received at the end was well deserved. If you are anywhere remotely near Bolton I can't recommend this production enough: social history and drama at its best, it is a truly special piece of theatre.
You can sign an e-petition which calls upon the government to posthumously award Walter Tull the Military Cross for which he was recommended.
If you have listened to much British music or watched many British films then it is hard to come to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe with a clean slate. The tale of Arthur and his desire not to be crushed by the social and economic system is hard to read afresh. It is hard not to see the retro-styled album covers of The Smiths, to see Hylda Baker, to hear The Artic Monkeys, to see every subsequent British New Wave film on working class culture running through your head: A Taste of Honey, Billy Liar, The Family Way, and so on. You can't help seeing motifs that have become cliches, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not", yet of course in 1959 they were far from cliches.
The plot is fairly simple: Arthur aged 22 and recently out of National Service slaves all day on piece work in a local factory. He has no responsibilities beyond giving a few pounds for board to his mother and enjoys drinking heavily, spending his money on nice clothes, and dallying with several married women. None of this particularly engages his brain though it is entertainingly related to us by the narrator, and so we get his rambling internal views on all aspects of the working class world in which he lives as he muses on the lives of his parents' generation and his own, on the government and the army, on marriage and husbands and wives, and on the future for men like him. He wants something more but as yet cannot see what that really might be.
I find this post-war era fascinating. The tail end of military service meeting the social movements and discontent that led to much of the 60s' activism and change. So if you can come to this book with fresh eyes it is remarkably light. Arthur's gripes might seem petty to those who experienced the squalor of the interminable dole years described in the brilliant but tuly 'grim oop north' Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood, but Arthur experienced those too, as a child, and he mentions them a couple of times. The lightness comes from the fact that Arthur must know that, compared to real years of hunger in the past, he is a lucky man, yet still his spirit strives for more. It is this striving in Arthur that points to hope for the future: whatever compromises Arthur might make in his own life, the human spirit constant seeks the stronger light.
I love this book and can see it becoming a regular re-read.
I wonder if others find an extended context of cultural references a help or a hinderance when reading a book like this for the first time?
My books went for a day out to have their photos taken, just before Christmas. You can see more here in a blog post by the photographer Kathryn on her website. The images will be used for business cards, bookmarks and possibly some cards and postcards. Customers will start seeing them in parcels quite soon!
" ‘Jane? Why, she was a little old maid ’oo’d written ’alf a dozen books about a hundred years ago. ’Twasn’t as if there was anythin’ to ’em, either. I know. I had to read ’em. They weren’t adventurous, nor smutty, nor what you’d call even interestin’—all about girls o’ seventeen (they begun young then, I tell you), not certain ’oom they’d like to marry; an’ their dances an’ card-parties an’ picnics, and their young blokes goin’ off to London on ’orseback for ’air-cuts an’ shaves. It took a full day in those days, if you went to a proper barber...'"
This is nothing whatsoever to do with my business but I thought the publishing idea so innovative, and the academic worth so tremendous, that I'd share this with you. I know academic Chris Routledge only from twitter and the blogosphere but he has done something quite remarkable in attempting to use Kickstarter to bring a beautifully produced annotated edition of a literary text into being. There is a film about the whys and wherefores of this, and you can pledge funds toward the publication (and receive copies of the book at certain levels of donation) on the Moby Dick Kickstarter page here. I am tempted by the limited edition hardback! I love the cover painting that first appears to be just sky ...
If other academics have similar projects, or new editions coming out with smaller presses that don't have the big publicity machines, then please let me know and I'll flag up the books in the newsletter. If you're interested in such book news you might want to like my Facebook page where I highlight such things, or sign-up to get my books newsletter.
Booksellers should note that there are a couple of multiple purchase tiers (paperbacks, and limited edition hardback and paperback combo) that are priced for reselling and include a bit of free advertising for indie booksellers who support the project.
The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott grew on me very slowly and it took me ages to read the first half. I finished it some six weeks ago. However as I was changing the beds this morning I found myself thinking about the life and views of one of the characters, Clover. Book characters popping in to your head during housework is a sure sign of a job well done in terms of characterisation. This thought also leads me to the conclusion that had I done more housework as a student I might have written even better essays. Anyway ...
It starts off as a well-wrought but not especially exciting study of life in Vaudeville. If you are fascinated by the theatre this is a winner for you straight away. In terms of character however the first part of the book largely focuses on the eldest of three sisters who perform in a sweet sister act, The Belle Auroras. Aurora, the eldest, is indeed beautiful and is regarded as the one most likely to be a success, in highly predictable ways, including making an advantageous theatrical marriage of convenience. Their widowed mother, who had performed on the stage in her youth before becoming respectable and marrying a teacher, battles to keep standards high and food on the table. They're poor, cold, hungry - so far so predictable. The theatre world is focused on Aurora: who is attracted to her, does she draw crowds, are impressarios impressed with her? But we see the theatre as much through the eyes of her younger sisters, the 'baby' Bella and quiet middle one Clover whose name is not part of their act. They watch the stage, and the acts and the grown-ups from backstage and suddenly as these two develop we learn much more than when the lovely Aurora was the focus of all gazes.
As the book progresses and the girls and their mother get older, cracks appear in the tight facade of family and we see them with their individual talents and lives as the first world war looms on the horizon. This later part of the book made it for me. The newer, more mature relationships, Clover's battles with her traumatised soldier lover, the new successes and failures, and their ways of adjusting to life and each other were fascinating and beautifully, subtly done. From the height of vaudeville to the dawn of the movie age this novel, in the end, ceates a wonderful arc of character through a slim plot and lots of theatrical atmosphere. Not my favourite novel of the year, not my favourite novel of the theatre, but in the end a very satisfying read and I am glad I stuck with it.
I have recently, for the first time in 12 years, taken some marketing advice about my business. I have, in the way of many second-hand book sellers, muddled through with a mixture of sales on my own site, on the sites of several large household names about which the less said the better, and on smaller multi-seller indie sites like Antiqbook and Biblio (I recommend these latter two). And generally what I did worked. Customers usually responded to what I did and pootled their way towards buying my books. How hard can it be I thought, I used to teach media for heaven's sake! However the downturn combined with the stranglehold of said household names and a chat with, believe it or not, my pilates teacher, sent me in the direction of a wonderful lady called Kathryn who is going to help me make C L Hawley a little sprucer and more able to compete in this big, bad cut-throat world of bookselling, where pootling will sadly no longer work.
Kathryn is not full of marketing speak, she is rather more in the real world, in fact she used to work in two very well known arts organisations, one of which was connected with an author's birthplace museum, and I felt right away that she understood my business. She also takes wonderful photographs. So as part of an image refresh I am having some professional photographs taken of my books for the very first time so that I can supply bookmarks and the like with my books. This is quite an odd feeling as my books are on the whole bought and sold for their content not their looks, however, with much excitement in the bookroom a selection of my more glamorous tomes, plus some of their work-a-day booky relatives have been picked. Whilst I do clean books on their arrival, the photographing meant that an extra spruce was required:
The whole process has not been unlike the morning of your child's school photograph! Making sure there's no toothpaste on the cardigan and no cereal on the teeth!
Another local family business, Eastburn Country Furniture, has kindly loaned their premises for the photo-shoot. I shall let you see some of the results when they arrive.
My mother is making bunloaf today. We always have bunloaf at Christmas and my mother took over making it from my grandmother about ten years ago. The recipe we have was one my great-grandmother used at home in Liverpool and my grandmother remembered having to carry the heavy loaves on a wooden board to the bakers where they would be cooked. I assume their domestic oven was not big enough.
I thought everybody had bunloaf at Christmas until I grew-up and got about a bit more! Then I realised hardly anyone had heard of it. Every so often I google the term to see if I can find anything else about its origins and today happened across this piece which talks about its presence in Swallows and Amazons, a book I shamefully have never read. Is it true? I do hope so! It would seem from the article's references to the Cumberland coast and the Isle of Man, and my family acquiring the recipe in Liverpool that the Lancashire/Cumberland coast seems to be its main location. Has anyone else heard of it? My mother's version is very similar to the recipe quoted in the article: no eggs and definitelyy no tea or beer.
I've just pootled across this diatribe against blogging book reviews:
"...in our present climate of criticism — a climate in which the Net has spawned a cacophony of gabble impersonating literary comment, palaver and vulgate enough to warp you. Literature has always had its leeches, except now the Net has given every one of them a bog to wiggle around in. This wouldn’t be any more of an issue than it is to ignore the wastrel on the corner dispensing pamphlets on anarchy, but as respectable print publications either prune their space for book commentary or else go extinct altogether, more and more criticism — like more and more of everything else — is migrating to blogs and social media sites. Young or new book readers looking for literary analysis are going to have an increasingly arduous chore of dividing the shit from the serious. Worse, the biddable and ovine will gravitate to the shit because that’s where all the buzzing is. If you’ve ever attempted to read a review on Amazon or on someone’s personal blog, you know it’s identical to seeking relationship advice on the wall of a public restroom."
If this is the best level of analysis the pro-critic can manage, no wonder they're being left behind.
The article is otherwise very good on the subject of The Craft of Fiction by Percy Lubbock. Lubbock's book is so good that I actually stock it (paperback, hardback) - a service probably more useful to Literature than many a bit of jargon laden, theory ridden waffle by a 'critic'!
I shouldn't allow myself to be wound up, but critics are supposed to have high levels of discrimination, and that's what you do online as you should do with print: you discriminate! I have no desire to lump all critics in the same group, and I know most are much more generous and balanced in their assessment of what goes on in the 'cacophony of gabble', indeed, there is probably someone beginning a PhD thesis on the subject of the influence of bloggers on literature as I write!