News emerged over the weekend that Dwight Garner was fleeing the New York Times Book Review for a gig as a daily books critic. With Rachel Donadio leaving the Book Review in the summer and Sam Tanenhaus performing double duty as editor of NYTBR and Week in Review, one wonders just who actually is running the NYTBR these days. Sure, Gregory Cowles was just bumped up to preview editor in September. But with the deputy editor slot open, does this mean Cowles will get two promotions in two months? Or will this slot go another editor over there?
One can only hope that all this staff shuffling reflects the beginnings of a much-needed regime change at the NYTBR. The NYTBR has become an out-of-touch, calcified rag in which it now takes two months after pub date for a major review to run, no-nothing dunces like Dave Itzkoff review science fiction, vaguely quirky writing (in the books reviewed or the reviews itself) is actively discouraged, translated fiction is regularly limited, and the editors actually believe that Henry Alford is funny. Compare any issue of the NYTBR under the Tanenhaus-Garner run against any issue under any issue edited by John Leonard, and you will see just how far this once-important section has fallen.
And as the Observer‘s Leon Neyfakh reported today, there was a time not long ago in which Dwight Garner felt the same way. Today, Garner has changed his tune, pointing out that “it’s a piece that clings to me on Google like a vampire bat.”
Is that Garner’s wry way of telling us that he’s in dire need of a blood transfusion? That he’s washed up? That he, just as he predicted twelve years ago, is incapable of regularly throwing sparks? Sounds very much like business as usual. In other words, why buy Valium when Garner is there in the daily?