While Critical Mass continues to perpetuate its collective ego stroking, remaining silent about developments at the Los Angeles Times, LA Observed reports that the last Sunday Book Review/Opinion section will run on July 27. After that, books coverage will run in the Calendar section and on the web. To what degree this represents less book coverage remains anyone’s guess right now. But I will try to determine just what massive cuts may be in store for the LATBR and see if there’s anything I can set down on the record.
Geoffrey Wolff is now in the running for writing one of the most irresponsible reviews of the year. His review of Ethan Canin’s America, America appeared last Sunday in the NYTBR. I only just got around to reading the review, because I wanted to read Canin’s novel first and form my own conclusions. But I was surprised to discover that not only did Wolff fail to articulate why he hated it, but he revealed four major plot developments that occur in the last two hundred pages: (1) who Corey Sifter (the novel’s protagonist) marries (deliberately withheld during the first 300 pages), (2) and (3) the fate of two key supporting characters, and (4) Sifter’s final summation to the reader. Wolff, of course, is perfectly entitled to hate a novel and to explicate why, even if his reasons in this “review” are not very satisfactory. But it is extremely unprofessional for Wolff to spoil the book like this. Look, Geoffrey, I can’t possibly know how terrible it must be to live with the fact that you’ll never be even half as good of a writer as your brother. (And a younger brother to whit! Wow, life just isn’t fair, Geoffrey!) But your quasi-paucity of literary talent doesn’t mean that you should act like the kind of loutish asshole who spoils the ending for people standing in line for a movie. Not even I would do that for a book or a film I didn’t care for.
And speaking of further NYTBR disgraces, Carolyn is right to call out the broad-minded Liesl Schillinger for suggesting that Rikva Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbancesmight be construed as a debut chick lit title. This is far from the first NYTBR slag. For the pigs who run this rag seem to be genuinely astonished that women can write books that aren’t chick lit or romances. Last summer, Garner couldn’t call author Jane Green a success. She was merely a “chick-lit success.” In June, Meg Cabot was nothing more than the “reigning grand dame of teenage chick lit.” Last summer, reviewer Amy Finnerty affirmed in her lede that Jill Bialosky’s The Life Room “isn’t chick lit.” And in last year’s review of David Markson’s The Last Novel, Catherine Texier bemoaned “the avalanche of historical novels, chick lit and just plain old traditional stories.” Not even the daily section has escaped these sullies. Back in April, Janet Maslin suggested that Theresa Rebeck’s debut novel “sound[ed] like the satirical version of a chick-lit premise.” What’s curious about this chick lit fixation is that it is often female reviewers who feel the need to evoke it. So I have to wonder whether it was Schillinger who inserted this ignoble categorization in her most recent review (perhaps encouraged by the editors?) or Dwight “Stag Club” Garner just couldn’t help himself.
As satirical covers go, the New Yorker‘s upcoming cover on Obama is a failure. While I really do believe that the time has come to declare open season upon Obama and that Americans must be challenged and offended if they continue to keep their heads in the sand, this cover doesn’t quite do it. It’s not funny, a bit unclear in its message of how Obama is perceived by the right, and not particularly sensible (but will likely sell magazines). It’s led, of course, to predictableoutrage. Which means that Remnick will probably have a happy Monday morning because he successfully pushed all of your buttons.
I happen to own a copy of Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which I found in a used bookstore many years ago and quickly scarfed up before anybody else. The book has been out-of-print for years and goes for big dollars on eBay. But if you’re curious, the Onion‘s Tasha Robinson has illustrated the differences between book and film. (And unlike Geoffrey Wolff, she warns about spoilers.)
And a belated goodbye to Annalee Newitz’s great column, “Techsploitation,” which is ending after nine punkass years. Annalee has moved on to i09. But her smart and irreverent riffs on technology and related issues made her column a must-read. And I can’t think of anybody who can replace her.
Last minute update: A Quasi show that Tito and I saw at Cafe du Nord in 2006 has been uploaded. Not the best sound quality, but you can get a good sense of the wonderfully raucous and oft anarchic performance. (via Tito)