Sam Tanenhaus: Man Enough or Just Plain Spent?

nytbr.jpgWell, I thought I was done with Sam Tanenhaus. But it appears that I’m not. This is simply too good to pass up. The image to the right is the cover that the NYTBR is issuing for its June 3, 2006 issue, which is designated as its “Summer Reading” issue. And what does that mean? Reviews of books from Martha McPhee, Plum Sykes, Scott Anderson and Sara Gruen. Yup. Real heavy-duty fiction.

But what of literary fiction? Or fiction in translation? Sorry, folks, the Times simply doesn’t do that anymore. And chances are they won’t be doing it anymore. It simply doesn’t fit within the Wagnerian temperament.

Why can’t Tanenhaus be honest and confess that the NYTBR has willfully abdicated its status as a cultural arbiter? Must Tanenhaus hide behind a comic book escutcheon and a cod piece instead of welcoming conversation (such as editors like the LATBR‘s David Ulin, an antipodean palliative to Tanenhaus if ever there were one; you can listen to his approach to editing on The Bat Segundo Show #43)? Or does it really boil down to a humorless dictatorial swagger?

Incidentally, on a lark, I emailed the agency that issued the press release, as Sam Tanenhaus was declared “available for interview on the best books for any summer reading list.” Of course, I’ve made my interview requests before, and they have been declined. But if anything turns up, I will let you know.

But it really boils down to this: Is Tanenhaus man enough to respond to the charges leveled at him? I think not. He may be “under no obligation to acknowledge the brownie,” but a real man wouldn’t sulk like a veteran Quaker and cling to a dying homestead amid anni mirabiles.

So once again, I offer Mr. Tanenhaus the opportunity to engage in a conversation, to present his points and square off on this issues raised here (and many other places).

If he’s man enough, that is.

(Thank you, DT.)

[UPDATE: Sam Tanenhaus has again declined an interview request with me. But I may be talking with Dwight Garner, the NYTBR senior editor. Perhaps Tanenhaus’s underlings are more man than Sam?]


  1. Several thoughts.

    1. Agreed as to the now total stinkitude of the NYTBR. I don’t even read it anymore, when it used to be a Sunday staple.

    2. I don’t really blame Tanenhaus with not agreeing to an interview with you. Obviously (with some reason) he sees you as hostile, and it’s a lose lose for him.

    3. That said, I’d love to see him explain his approach to somebody. If he has a philosophy other than to make the section as lame and irrelevant as possible, it isn’t apparent to this reader.


  2. Forgive me for this Eddie but maybe you shoul dget arrested again and get your mind off the lost cause of the NYTBR.

    As I have been saying for some time now( how long?) the so called arbiter of whatever is useless to people who know anything about literature and/ or book publishing.

    You are quite correct though editors like David Ulin, Oscar Villlaon/ SF Chronicle and Tom Walker/Denver Post, and even (she has seen her doimain cut back, through I am sure no fault of her own) Liiz Taylor/Chic Tribune are doing quite well in the face of prevailing editorial ignorance by upper management.

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