Faint Praise and good readers

I noticed that Greg Harris linked to my post about Gail Pool’s Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America. Better still, he quotes approvingly from Robertson Davies on the subject of the clerisy (according to the Oxford American Dictionary, “a distinct class of learned or literary people: the clerisy are those who read for pleasure“), a word I had to look up too:

Who are the clerisy?…. The clerisy are those who read for pleasure, but not for idleness; who read for pastime, but not to kill time; who love books, but do not live by books. As lately as a century ago the clerisy had the power to decide the success or failure of a book, and it could do so now. But the clerisy has been persuaded to abdicate its power by several groups, not themselves malign or consciously unfriendly to literature, which are part of the social and business organization of our time. These groups, though entrenched, are not impregnable; if the clerisy would arouse itself, it could regain its sovereignty in the world of letters. For it is to the clerisy, even yet, that the authors, the publishers, and the booksellers make their principal appeal.

Finding the word you’ve been needing for a long time without realizing it is a wonderful sensation and one that Word Court often tries and fails to elicit.

The rest of Harris’ post is here. Its major weakness is propagating the tendency to divide bloggers and critics, amateurs and professionals, into an “us” versus “them” dynamic, which I continue to find silly. To be fair, Harris might just be reflecting his subject matter.

%d bloggers like this: