It’s the Books, Stupid

An anonymous comment at the National Book Critics Circle blog:

Has book coverage started on Truthdig? If it has, it’s very invisible on the home page. Second, those of us who are interested in literature and literary culture wish all you folks would stop talking about yourselves for a few minutes and start reviewing some more books. Most of you work from assignment, so you can’t necessarily be blamed, but since we can read any book review we want these days, why do we have to read so many reviews of the same twenty books every week. That this “campaign” to save book reviewing takes up so much of your attention is only further evidence of how important you all think you are. It’s actually the books that are important and so many of them–books that are often far more interesting than the few that you sheep are all getting your two cents in about every week–just disappear without a bit of attention. If literature is to survive, it has to do something that movies don’t do, it has to move forward, it has to grow. This hammering away at Delillo, Chabon, Díaz by all of you at once is downright boring. Folks who read are looking for a disovery, not the same old same old. Your homogeneity spells the death of culture in this country. If, indeed, we ever had one.

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6 Comments

  1. I would say this: right now, so far this fall, if you are a blog or a big reviewer, you have to deal with Denis Johnson and Junot Diaz and the last Ghostwriter novel by Roth. The Amy Bloom book perhaps as well. Three have made the NYTBR best seller list for fiction, and probably the Roth will as well. In the case of all four you are dealing with novels by celebrated and quite special writers.

    That’s not to say that other books shouldn’t get covered. But there is a heirarchy and a pecking order. But the biggest and most important guns deserve a certain amount of play. And if someone is going to be taken seriously, to some degree they should be able to add to the conversation concerning the big books.

  2. HAH! I’ve read (and I wrote) similar posts all over the web. Pretty much the entire literary world just wants them to shut up and get back to work. Cowboy up, as it were.

  3. The homogeneity of book reviewing follows the homogeneity of the publishing houses’ amount of money for marketing and this flow of money and influence does not necessarily have that much to do with the value of the book in terms of a civilization. I grew up reading Roth and he deserves to be ranked at one of America’s best writers of the last sixty years. But I just don’t know if America wants to read a book wherein the first three pages is about an old guy’s incontinence problems. I get the book, I really do; analogy and parable and all that. Maybe next a book about some old lady’s vaginal prolapse?
    Lyn

  4. “That’s not to say that other books shouldn’t get covered. But there is a heirarchy and a pecking order. But the biggest and most important guns deserve a certain amount of play. And if someone is going to be taken seriously, to some degree they should be able to add to the conversation concerning the big books.”

    No. No, no no no no no, no no, no no no. I, as a reader, do not need every single book review page, literary magazine and journal to review the same Rushdie-Bloom-Roth-McEwan book, certainly not at the same time, predictably given the front page (whether the darn thing is good or even an interesting failure) days apart. No, I don’t see why a paper has to review the new Didion to be taken seriously. It’s the quality of the reviews, the writing, the diverse, intriguing selection of books that, the pages devoted to fiction that makes me take a book review section seriously. Dare to be bleepin’ different, for crying out loud.

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