Week in Links: Stop Being So Damn Nice

Jonah Lehrer continued to commit career suicide, and that dominated most of the linkage and articles this week. Yet I somehow managed to find a few gems tucked under his turd fest. You’re welcome.

Against Enthusiasm: The epidemic of niceness in online book culture – Slate

As if mirroring the surrounding culture, biting criticism has become synonymous with offense; everything is personal—one’s affection for a book is interchangeable with one’s feelings about its author as a person. Critics gush in anticipation for books they haven’t yet read; they <3 so-and-so writer, tagging the author's Twitter handle so that he or she knows it, too; they exhaust themselves with outbursts of all-caps praise, because that's how you boost your follower count and affirm your place in the back-slapping community that is the literary web.

This article tries to make an argument for being more critical of books in online communities (primarily Twitter and Tumblr). I’m all for being critical to sensitive souls like writers. So stop being so damn nice, people. Let’s bring those published literary hussies to tears.

Update 8/13: Pop Culture Happy Hour (an awesome NPR podcast to which you should subscribe) critiques this article and brings up some really solid points about social media and today’s “book culture.” The discussion starts at 19:21 and ends about 34:10, which you can listen to on their blog post Pop Culture Happy Hour: On Fall TV And Whether Criticism Is Too Nice.

The only list that matters – Melville House

A body cannot live each day like it was their last. Our best moments gain their worth, in part, because they are surrounded by dross. But seeing numbers like this, doing the math, makes a person wonder: should that book about feeding your dog the paleo diet be one of those vanishing few?

Melville House dared write a post that combined math with books, but it works. I’m not sure the universe can handle this imbalance.

This dude just wants an eBook – New York Times Blog

I felt like I was in a Monty Python skit. “Hello? Would anyone like some money? Anyone? I’ve got money here—no?”

This exemplary human writes a tech blog for the New York Times (I know, exemplary + technology + New York Times is an unholy union), and decided he needed an eBook version of Bourne Identity for his minion. Problem is, the publisher is too incompetent to provide eBook versions. So this dude did what any other human would—he went to a bit torrent site. But THEN this magical, godly person mailed the publisher a check! Oh holy hell, I don’t think the universe can handle this much strain.

Bonus: Joshua Ferris is my nemesis – Salon

We’ll call my nemesis Josh, since that’s his name. He goes by Joshua now — Joshua Ferris — but calling him that makes me uncomfortable, so for these purposes I’m going with Josh.

Can be summarized succinctly with one word: hilarious. After discussing how inhumane and horrible her MFA program was, and how her nemesis (now a published writer) is a hard worker, the last few paragraphs bring us to the groundbreaking moral that being an unknown writer gives you more freedom and less pressure. Enlightening.

Every Friday, I highlight links from the week—all related to writing, storytelling, and plain ol’ books. Some of the links I love, some of the links I don’t, but I believe all are worth reading and discussing. If you’re the type to eat dessert before dinner, you can get these and much, much more by following me on Twitter: @messemi.

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