Richard Powers on reviews and the solitude of reading.

From the erratically irritating/illuminating NBCC site, Richard Powers:

The problem is, changing technology invariably produces its own head-on collision of values. The cost of conveying information has plummeted, and we are converging on that moment when everyone will be able to know what anyone else thinks about anything at any given moment. Ideally, I think this is great: it’s the logical extension of the promise implicit in that ancient and most destabilizing of technologies, writing. The complication, of course, is that noise and signal both become cheaper at the same rate, and the novels and reviews that are most capable of making me a better reader may well become harder to find, even as they become more numerous and more thoughtful and more robust. We are in danger of drowning in an ocean of liking or disliking. I honestly don’t think our crisis is print reviews versus blogs, specialization versus populism, or even the exclusivity of the elite versus the tyranny of the majority. I think our crisis is instant evaluation versus expansive engagement, real time versus reflective time, commodity versus community, product versus process. Substituting a user’s rating for a reader’s rearrangement threatens to turn literature into a lawn ornament. What we need from reviewers in any medium are guides to how to live actively inside a story.

(cross posted at Ed’s place)

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