The Book May Not Be Dead…

…but it’s possible that the book review is.

Or at least that the serious book-review publication is. Witness this demoralizing development at the New York Times Book Review: as if we didn’t all already know that the NYTBR was skewed toward non-fiction, this is in the process of becoming official editorial policy. Moreover, what fiction gets reviewed will now lean explicitly toward the airport-novel, and decidedly away from the literary.

What effect might this shift have on the publishing industry? Will the industry turn away, at least in part, from the NYTBR’s arbitration of success, or will this “marginalization”1 of literature in the review-world cause the publishing industry to follow suit?

1I have to put this in scare quotes in no small part because I’ve spent the last several decades (or so it feels) working on a manuscript that’s precisely about how these metaphors of “marginalization” with regard to the literary are (a) untrue, and (b) politically suspect. I now find myself, in many regards, pondering the ironies of that stance.

One thought on “The Book May Not Be Dead…

  1. You know, I haven’t really ever thought of book reviews as *fiction* reviews. Sure, some fiction and poetry reviews are published in the New Yorker and the like; but mostly the reviews I’ve [academically] grown up reading are the likes of those linked to from my name in this comment. And so when I hear “book review,” I don’t immediately think “is the prose lively?” but rather “is the research well done?” I’m wonder whether this is generational: my grandfather, who taught literature at university, was probably more likely to write and read reviews of non-academic material. But then, that was Eastern Europe, as well. I’ve no idea what their deal is now with regard to book reviews.

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