Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Save Book Reviews

I like book reviews. I enjoy reading them and it is a literary form that I am compentent at and I enjoy doing. Imagine--getting free books in the mail and being paid to read and write about them. What could be better? So It captured my attention when I discovered the campaign by the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) to save newspaper book reviews. In a broader sense, concerns about newspaper book reviews are a part of concern about the decline of literacy, consolidation in the publishing industry and the supposedly disappearing midlist. Salon addressed the decline of stand alone review sections several years ago.

the NBCC's blog chronicles the campaign on a daily basis and has focused on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which recently canned its book review editor. They have started a petition to restore the position. I haven't signed it and I can't get too worked up over the doings of the Atlanta paper. If they want to make any headway in Atlanta, the NBCC should frame the campaign differently by appealing to the city's self esteem problem and point out that a paper in an important city would have, at the very least, a book review editor.

While I think more book reviews is preferable to fewer, the level of unacknowledged self-interest is a bit unseemly. It reminds me of when, about two decades ago, geography teachers were expressing alarm about students' lack of geography knowledge. I might be more upset if I wrote for newspapers, but I have never reviewed a book for a daily paper, and have done only one--of Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette--for Knoxville's alt-weekly, Metro Pulse.

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