Monday, May 16, 2005

LBC finally announces first choice

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My friends at the Lit Blog Co-op have finally announced their first choice: Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson. For those who need a reminder, the LBC is a group of twenty litbloggers who have banded together to ask a very intriguing queston - if online book reviewers can have the same impact these days on the bestseller list as paper-based reviewers. Four times a year, then, the group is going to recommend a new book that they think deserves more attention than it's getting, and they're going to give the book that attention, and hope that the increased attention actually results in more sales for that book.

I've been reading a lot of discussion about the LBC in the blogosphere over the last month, by the way, and wanted to bring up a couple of points for consideration - and please realize that I'm not a member of the LBC myself, nor want to be, but do have a number of personal friends who are:

1) It's important to understand that the LBC is primarily trying to get a larger conversation about their picks started, not necessarily to declare themselves as new authority figures and to lord it over other online book reviewers. I've seen a number of complaints from other online literary people now, saying things along the lines of "Why wasn't I asked to be part of the LBC?," which to me always seems to be missing the point. These particular twenty people came together because they all believe in the collective power of gridded conversations on the web; the whole reason they're online people and not paper-based reviewers is that they're not authoritarian or elitist. The LBC won't work, frankly, if it's only these twenty people talking about their pick, and they know this - the whole point of making a pick is to then get people like you and me talking about it as well, and reading it and buying it and posting our own online reviews, and all of us being merely small parts in what will hopefully be a giant conversation about the book. In this context, then, I think it's better not to worry about whether one is "on" the LBC or not, and instead to see it as the worldwide collective experience it is.

2) It's also important to remember, I think, that the LBC is not necessarily saying that you're going to love their picks, but rather that they want people to have a discussion about their picks, whether that's full of supportive or critical comments. They themselves, in fact, are starting their own coverage of Case Histories later this week with something they're calling The Minority Report, which will basically be essays from those in the group who thought the book shouldn't have been their pick. Their willingness to show such dissension within their own group, I think, dispels a lot of the elitist charges that someone might want to throw their way, and helps show that what they're primarily trying to encourage is a simple conversation about the book, no matter what the opinion.

Those in the Pacific Northwest will be happy to know that Powell's is selling Case Histories at their stores for 30 percent off - and only because they're a fan of the LBC, not through any financial arrangement. And yes, I'll be reading the book myself over the next couple of weeks, and posting my own review here in the overall spirit of what the LBC is trying to accomplish. I'm looking forward to it, in fact.