Isaac Fitzgerald, a cofounder of The Rumpus and a former employee of McSweeney's, is now BuzzFeed's books editor, Poynter's Andrew Beaujon reports. It's good that they're hiring someone with a books background and not just some schmuck from Thought Catalog who read a book once, but I'm really troubled by this quote from Fitzgerald:

BuzzFeed will do book reviews, Fitzgerald said, but he hasn’t figured out yet what form they’ll take. It won’t do negative reviews: “Why waste breath talking smack about something?” he said. “You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.” Fitzgerald said people in the online books community “understand that about books, that it is something that people have worked incredibly hard on, and they respect that. The overwhelming online books community is a positive place.”

He will follow what he calls the “Bambi Rule” (though he acknowledges the quote in fact comes from Thumper): “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

I agree that you should publish way more positive book reviews than negative book reviews, but if you only publish positive book reviews, you're not a critical outlet; you're a consumer goods promotion site. Part of the reason why book culture has marginalized itself on the internet over the last ten years is this goody-two-shoes, let's-all-play-nice-together culture that has permeated book blogs. Everybody is a cheerleader for Team Books, and that's great. But with self-publishing exploding and publishers catering to a more and more insular audience, we need negative book reviews more than ever.

Without a negative review every now and again, there's no way to align your tastes to a critic; you need the poles of a positive and a negative review in order to understand what a critic considers a good book to be. If a critic loves everything, there's no drama, there's no understanding of what the critic dislikes, and every review becomes meaningless.

Ten years ago, there were plenty of literary blogs, and every day those blogs had news and gossip to report. People got into arguments. Authors fought with each other. Lofty discussions about the future broke out everywhere. Now, it seems, everyone is just smiling and nodding primly to each other. It's so cutesy-pie that nobody cares. You're pro-literacy. I'm pro-literacy. Everybody who reads about books agrees that more people should read more books. That's great! Now tell us why. Be passionate. Make mistakes. Tell us who's doing it wrong. Tell us who's doing it right. Argue with me about e-books. Make it lively. Make it fun. Make people want to see what you're going to write next. But for fuck's sake, don't just promise handshakes and rainbows from day one. The publishers and authors might love you for it, but real human beings will tune you out immediately. If book culture continues to go down this cheerleader path, we'll diminish ourselves culturally to the point where we're a tiny insular Smurf village of love and peace and happiness. And nobody will ever give a shit.

In other news, Fitzgerald also says the section will focus on "shareable content," so you've got that to look forward to.