My Photo

Flowers and Gardens

Food

2023

2022

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

Cornflower book group

Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.

« Monochrome | Main | Cats and pigeons, scones and cream »

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

dovegreyreader

Funnily enough I've just read that self-same piece Karen and was pondering a response but I don't think I could say it any better than you have.I think one of my reasons for starting a blog was to sweep away some of the elitism about books and reading per se and this piece just proves how necessary that was. No claims to being a critic or a reviewer, though like you I now write and am paid for my words by various magazines.Quite interesting to be told that my offerings, now being archived as a social record in the British Library for future research, are yammerings.But also nice to think that someone perhaps might find them in years to come and publish them as a "forgotten woman's voice" and perhaps wrap me in a nice cover with textile endpapers. I think I'd like it to be called A Few Books and No Pretensions!Oh yes and a bookmark would be lovely.On second thoughts I'm more likely to come back as an e book:-)

Elaine

I am quietly simmering at my desk at work having just read the very same letter, and will not reply now as I have a desk piled high and think it is best to let my anger at this incredibly insulting diatribe reach manageable proportions. I will be blogging - whoops sorry yammering - about this over the weekend when I will have time to formulate my response very carefully. In the meantime I have written to Persephone Books apologising for yammering about them on my blog and promising not to do it any more. I have also requested that my name be deleted from their mailing list forthwith and if I should be moved to purchase any more books from them, I will get them from Amazon (and live without the bookmark) and will never yammer about them on there either. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you....

tara

My goodness. Karen, I read your post briefly this morning and skimmed the Persephone letter in between getting my daughter off to preschool and myself to the gym. I am only now able to read both carefully enough to see that, yes, that letter does in fact say what I thought it did. I am left stunned quite frankly. I do not in any way put myself into the same category as yourself and the ladies that have already responded here, but I am quite shocked at Persephone's very public insult towards (as Elaine has said) the hand that feeds them. I suppose I will have more to say as I have been planning to yammer on about The Shuttle today.

a simple yarn

Now, I am neither a writer, a reviewer, nor a critic, and so, I am reading this as 'Jane Q Public.' It was a shame that such thoughtless, broad-stroke generalisations were made toward blogs.

Perhaps it is a fear that more opinions will water down the words of those with 'important opinions', i.e. the professionals. Is it a case of too many cooks spoiling the soup? Or could it be that the oligarchy that now rules the book-criticism-kingdom is nervous as the peasants start banging on the castle door? Perhaps it's no more than self-preservation that moves them to say these things.

Whatever the reason, it is sad that there is a myopic, self-centred thinking that prevents them from embracing the positive aspects of what those in the blogging world have to say.

Danielle

Hmm. I'm quite surprised to read that letter! It seems to me that a variety of places to read about books would be a good thing? Or can only certain people discuss books? I think I am a savvy enough reader to know where to go to find scholarly criticism, book reviews and discussion....

Danielle

By the way...I find this sort of disappointing coming from a small press that I only ever heard of when I read about them via other bloggers.

Lisa W

I can only comment as a humble blog reader. In recent months I have discovered a handful of blogs that I truly enjoy visiting. They are written, in my opinion, by thoughtful, articulate and witty women who bring to their blogs creativity, talent, life experiences and educational credentials not to be sniffed at. Of these few blogs, three have on more than one occasion sung the praises of Persephone Books in such a well written fashion that can only be good for their sales. As one of your previous commenters stated, and as I periodically remind our five month old puppy, it is not wise to bite the hand that feeds you.

Lisa W

I can only comment as a humble blog reader. In recent months I have discovered a handful of blogs that I truly enjoy visiting. They are written, in my opinion, by thoughtful, articulate and witty women who bring to their blogs creativity, talent, life experiences and educational credentials not to be sniffed at. Of these few blogs, three have on more than one occasion sung the praises of Persephone Books in such a well written fashion that can only be good for their sales. As one of your previous commenters stated, and as I periodically remind our five month old puppy, it is not wise to bite the hand that feeds you.

Kelly

The mistake, I think, that Ms. Beauman makes in her Persephone letter (and Mr Schickel, in the piece she quotes) is to confuse the medium with the message.

Yes, the world is full of yammerers - talking on mobile phones, chatting at tea shops and coffee houses and cocktail parties, writing letters and diaries, blogging as fast as they can type. But even if the ratio is 1:100 or 1:1000 or one in a million, surely she would agree that some of those communications (spoken or written) partake of the "logically reasoned discourse ... inviting serious engagement" which she suggests, concurring with Mr Schickel, belong only to the credentialed professional.

There are blogs, and there are blogs. A closer look - a closer read - will reveal writing, and reviewing, and criticism which, even though it is self-published, speaks with the authority Ms Beauman and Mr Schickel praise.

(But if you're here you probably already know that, right?)

Charity

The thing that I find about blogging is the chance to get to know so many people, and thus can hold their opinions with real value. I'm not reading a mere opinion of someone I don't know from Adam, I am hearing the opinion of a friend, and that holds a lot more water with me than most reviews ever will. :0)

Elaine

I have been in correspondence with Nicola Beaumann this afternoon and if you read the Letter now, some of the more contentious aspects of it have been removed. It has been cleverly edited unless I am imagining things as I did not take a copy of the original, so it is less offensive. I was extremely trenchant in my email about how much support Persephone has received from Bloggers and I know for a fact that I, personally, have persuaded dozens of people to read and purchase Making of a Marchioness and now The Shuttle. I shall be posting about this myself as I am pretty cross and that does not happen to me very often - I may get irritated often but really really cross, well hardly ever. But I am today

Julie

*So* pleased that I bought a used 1907 edition of The Shuttle rather than the Persephone version!

Vanessa

I haven't had time to go and read the letter in question but I will asap. I must say though that I'm disappointed in Persephone's attitude - as Tara points out bloggers have been staunch supporters and promoters of Persphone's books and as they're stocked in few mainstream bookshops that publicity has to be valuable.

From my point of view at Fidra, I have given up sending review copies to 'proper' reviewers - they turn their nose up and reprints and we don't do the schmoozing that might help to persuade them to write about us. Bloggers have been a great help to us in terms of telling a wider audience about the fabulousness of our books (well I would say that!) and creating our own blog has been the best bit of marketing we've done.

I'm offended and if I still feel like that when I read the Persephone letter, I shall be emailing to tell them so.

Elaine

Vanessa - I am just about to post on the whole affair. I have mentioned that the letter has been subtly toned down from the original. Please do write to NB though, the more she hears our views the better. You have also reminded me that I have to send you a bijou chequette for a book that I want to buy!

tara

I have forwarded my thoughts to Persephone and looked at their letter again to see that they have indeed removed the following line from it -Hurrah for blogs, we say – but only if they are never mistaken for anything but yammering.

I am reading everyone's thoughts here with great interest. Thank you all, and especially Karen, for this interesting discussion.

Alice

Ooooh, Persephone have made the grave mistake of making Mummy angry... prepare for flying sparks! What was that you were saying about my own blog being too ranty? ;)

Peter the flautist

Well said all of you, There is a great deal of misinformation available on the internet, and many weblogs are indeed the equivalent of mindless chatter. However this site, and all of those that it links to (that I have visited) perform an excellent and important service to readers of literature. I take the views expressed here seriously (I don't always agree of course) and so should others.

To arms citizens!

Literate Cat

Bluestalking Reader

Wonderful job, all of you, firing back at the petty comments of Ms. Beaumann. I'm likewise paid to review in some sectors, but unpaid and independent in others. As a member of the National Book Critics Circle I'd like to think I have a touch of professionalism, but I've never seen that in any way superior to the work of other wonderfully insightful bloggers who in many cases work even harder than I do writing tremendously erudite, incisive reviews. The whole thing is SO petty on the behalf of Persephone, I keep coming back to that word. The fact is it's striking close to the hearts of many critics knowing the bloggers are daring to turn out huge quantities of reviews that PEOPLE ARE READING and USING to make informed decisions about books. Saints preserve us! Imagine that, our opinions are OUT THERE for the world to see, and generally unprejudiced, unlike that of many professional critics! What will we think of next... Such cheeky, cheeky things we are, daring to have opinions.

dovegreyreader

Oh I know what will happen now...all at Persephone will realize they have shot themselves in both feet and completely demolished any goodwill towards them that was out there in the blogosphere.
This will now be very hard to win back.
Then it will dawn on them just how many sales blog mentions have generated because the books are rarely reviewed in the mainstream literary supplements.Nor to my knowledge are bloggers ever sent free books by them (unless they helped discover the book) so even books freely reviewed on blogs have been bought and paid for.
Max Clifford will have to be called in and then there will be a big apology and loads of free books all round and probably a scone and cream as well:-)

sherry

Karen, like you, I am astounded at Persephone's thoughtlessness. Whatever were they thinking? I had just put together an order for a few of their books, but now it is in the wastebasket.
Huge thunderstorm overhead, Must log off. Will email later.

Jill

Karen: You have articulated the case quite well. I don't think I saw the Persephone letter in its original form but like others here, I am surprised that Persephone would do something so foolish given that the word of mouth from bloggers has largely been responsible for their success in the United States. I would otherwise never have heard of them.

Harriet

Not much to add to all that everyone has said on this subject but I absolutely agree -- I also now buy books on the recommendation of the bloggers I know and trust, not on the basis of newspaper reviews. And it makes me so happy when I find that people have read books I've recommended on mine and enjoyed them.
Harriet
http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/

Lesley

I'm another who was appalled at the tone of the Letter. I can claim no credentials whatsoever to be a critic, reviewer or a mere "yammerer". However, as with many who have commented, I value the opinions of those women whose blogs I visit regularly and, indeed, one of them was responsible for me discovering Persephone. I am hugely disappointed with the elitist attitude shown by NB. Some of us may not have university degrees nor earn our living from literary criticism. It does not, however, mean that we are brain dead.

Nicola

Brilliant post, Karen. I read the Persephone newsletter in it's original form and I was amazed at the tone. I don't blog myself and take my reading recommendations from a variety of sources. For example, I've just read The Rebecca Notebook which I discovered on this blog and Clare Messud's The Emperor's Children which had a good review in The Sunday Times, Culture section. Both are valid opinions and both made me spend my money. And on the subject of money, Persephone should remember that £10.99 is very expensive for a paperback however nice the endpapers.

Tui M.

Oh dear. Read La Beaumann's letter with aggravation and sadness. Having read critics by the hundredfold through the course of several English degrees, I can say without hesitation that I have read better blog reviews in many, many instances. I have read critics who have completely misread the text, who were political posturers or dilettantish poseurs, whose pomposity drove me to utter distraction. Yet I have read bloggers whose descriptions have made me want to rush out to buy a book or to hug them for the depth and sensitivity of their insight. Some of the reviews at LibraryThing, for example, have been stunningly good - and deliciously succinct.

This kind of snobbish elitism is so t'arsome. Excellent response, Karen - and everyone else. I suspect Ms. Beaumann is going to get a wee lesson in the power of the blog. he he

Equiano

I was away at Hay when all the Persephone drama occurred, so didn't see NB's original letter until after it had already been changed. It is tiresome that every few months some "eminent" soul launches a diatribe against blogs, but it is rather disappointing when that someone is Persephone Books! Thank you for a very reasoned response.

John Self

I add myself to the chorus of disapproval above. As someone pointed out on the Fidra blog, nobody reads 'real' literary criticism these days: and nobody publishes it, bar the TLS and LRB etc.

What I aim to do in my blog is provide an opinion for those who might be thinking of reading a book. Pretty simple really. You don't have to agree with it, you don't even have to read it, but you can cross-check with my views on other books and if you get to know me (in that sense) then you'll have a fairly good idea whether my meat is your poison and vice versa.

I also think reviews (if we non-professionals are allowed to call them that) should be accessible and enjoyable to read even if the book is neither, should not more or less recount the entire plot (as most reviews in the Guardian Saturday Review do), and above all should not take half an hour to read. Again, pretty simple.

Anyway, the upside of the Persephone letter is that it has led me to discover this blog. So it wasn't all bad!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.

Blackwell's

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

  • 1914-1918 War
    Pictures from the stitchers' preview

A request

  • If you wish to use any original images or content from this site, please contact me.

Places to visit

The Book Depository

  • Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Art and Architecture

Knitting and other crafts

Cornflower Book Group: read

Statcounter