Friday, April 30, 2010

"Faking Nice," and the Allure of the Mean Friend

If you haven't read Sarah McCarry's Huffington Post piece "Faking Nice in the Biblioblogosphere," you might not want to. It is, as Colleen Mondor and others in the illustrious kidlitosphere has discerned, it looks like evidence of the worst sort of girl-on-girl negativity:

Is it just me, or is there some undercurrent in McCarry's post suggesting women can't support other women without an ulterior motive?

I keep running into references to "mean girl culture." I suppose this is shorthand for the kind of preteen backstabbing that has been around since time immemorium, not incarnated in which Gossip Girl and The Clique, but in my day it was SVH and Canby Hall. And as far as the meanness goes, well, it works. About a year ago, I listened to This American Life episode called Allure of the Mean Friend. In a scientific experiment, mean waitresses get better tips than obliging ones. Like the mean waitress, I'd rather be feared than liked, but not at anyone else's expense.

Liz Burns at Teacozy did an excellent job dissecting every nuance of McCarry's allegations, which seems to have a really superficial understanding of the bookblogging universe.

And though I'm not writing those types of reviews, I do get books that I don't know what to do with. My strategy: I just don't review those. It's easier for me to find something to write about which I really liked rather than to put negativity out into the universe.

I thought Liz Burns had the stellar tweet of the exchange:

 "...not all bloggers want 2 b critics, OK to blog abt books in other ways."

I think writing about reading, like reading itself, is a strange combination of the intensely personal and the sometimes social. McCarry's confusion of interpersonal dynamics and the public aspect of book blogging does ignore those with altogether different motives for sharing. How much of bookblogging is about documenting the experience of reading, preserving it in amber? Remember reading log journals? Well, how much cooler is that when invested with the audience and interactivity of the read/write web? I have just read Jessica Hefland's Scrapbooks: An American History (see associated website), and I keep coming back to bookblogging as a 21st century extension of that unique and personal process of squirrelling away what is important to us.

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