Reviewing the Review: February 15 2009

Lit-Crit
It's a busy weekend out here today, no time for a thorough review of the Review, though I enjoyed several pieces including Jim Holt's meditation upon Simon Critchley's new Book of Dead Philosophers, which implicitly contrasts the real life death scenes of many great thinkers with their ideas. It all sounds very dada, and in a good way. Gershom Gorenberg teases at a full-body slam in reviewing Jimmy Carter's controversial We Can Have Peace In The Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work, but ends up praising the hopeful book. This is a refreshing surprise; I have been impressed for a long time by Jimmy Carter's fearlessly idealistic activism on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Jim Krusoe stokes my interest in Martin Millar's Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation, a novel that has apparently been developing a cult audience in Britain for decades and is now available here. And, while I wasn't completely blown away by the film version of Neil Gaiman's Caroline, which I just saw with my daughter -- the 3D effects were awesome, but Tim Burton never really seems to develop real characters -- I am intrigued enough by Monica Edinger's rave review for Gaiman's new The Graveyard Book that I'll give this one a try too.

I wish I could spend more time on this weekend's Book Review, but time is scarce. And time has come today for Washington Post's Book World, which ran it's final print issue along with a farewell note.

There's been much talk of the vanishing Sunday literary supplement here in the United States, but I've been wondering what the situation is like in other countries. I'd love to know if other newspapers around the world print Sunday literary supplements or anything like it, and I asked Mark Thwaite of the blog Ready Steady Book about the UK scene. His informative response filled me in on the Guardian (Saturday), the Independent (Friday), the Financial Times, the Times, the Sunday Times and the Telegraph, as well as local papers like the Manchester Evening News, the Birmingham Post, the Yorkville Post and the Scotsman, and (begrudgingly, after I asked) the Daily Mail. Sounds like a regular menagerie of newspaper-based literary coverage over there, though only a couple of these papers run weekly literary supplements. Here in the USA, with the end of Washington Post Book World, only one remains.
This article is part of the series Reviewing the New York Times Book Review. The next post in the series is Reviewing the Review: February 22 2009. The previous post in the series is Reviewing the Review: February 8 2009.
9 Responses to "Reviewing the Review: February 15 2009"

This is so not true. You just have to look in the right places. Facebook and Myspace have millions of members. And a lot of people there are reviewing books. I’d venture to say, the interest is growing, not diminishing. Steve Finbow, for example, reviews books for the Japan Times. Outsider Writers regularly reviews underground chapbooks and the like. My own book reviews have appeared in 3AM, Word Riot, Bookmunch, and Dogmatika. If Was Post is the past, then we are the future. Get down and get with it. Like the Brutalist credo of Tony O’Niell and others – “we’ll make our own way, and nobody’s gonna stop us.”

And by the way, there was much less violence in the Middle East during the Carter and Clinton presidencies. It's people like Reagan and the Bushes who preferred war for the sake of defense contractor dollars.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jun/11/top10s.philosophers.deaths
"It is the ambition of The Book of Dead Philosophers to show that often the philosopher's greatest work of art is the manner of their death," says Critchley.
Camus should have been included because his death in a car accident--with an unused train ticket in his pocket--is observed as an absurd death. The last sentence of Camus' Myth of Sisyphus, known for its paradox of the Absurd, says that we must imagine Sisyphus happy, even he's though condemned to an eternity of futile toil.
I want to buy this book and hope it as good as the other review I read.
http://newhumanist.org.uk/1794

by Tim Barrus on

Unlike publications where news cycles are actually contrived by book publicists who decide what is new and what isn't, bloggers can actually review books that interest them even if the book has been in print a couple of years. This flies in the face of marketing convention and is usually done by people who just love books. There's a difference between what's still out there (boggles the mind) and what's for sale today. Reading bloggers reviewing books is like going into Shakespeare and Company and losing track of time -- whoops; it's dark. http://prairiemary.blogspot.com/ -- Tim Barrus, Amsterdam

"Critchley points out that we, as a society, are almost ridiculously frightened of death. And what can we do about that? Critchley has the answer: philosophy.
'It was a commonplace in antiquity that philosophy provides the wisdom necessary to confront death. That is, the philosopher looks death in the face and has the strength to say that it is nothing.'
That’s in theory. In practice... well, Critchley gives us short profiles of close to 200 philosophers..."
http://januarymagazine.com/2009/01/new-in-paperback-book-of-dead.html
Maybe Camus is in there after all.

by TKG on

The odd thing is that Tim Burton did not make Coraline. I saw it, I thought it was good. I kept waiting for the spot where Tim Burton's name would appear but it never did.

Everyone always saws, Coraline, the new Tim Burton movie. I thought it was too. But he had nothing to do with it. He's making Alice in Wonderland.

For Coraline I stayed until the very end of the credits and the last thing was a cryptic and strange comment. It said:

"To those in the know: JERK WAD"

Bizarre, ain't it?

When I was in Paris I read Le Monde, which is an excellent paper. They condense the size of the paper down as much as possible, so you have better articles, but less of them. Their book review section comes out on Friday, and it is less pages that the NYTBR, but I think the overall quality of the writing is much better. I really looked forward to Friday - the end of the week, take the book review down to the corner cafe and spend some quality time thinking about books, and watching the endless stream of people walking by. The Sunday Le Monde is not a big, fat edition like in the US - they combine Sunday and Monday into one paper. But they do have a really excellent glossy magazine that appears on the weekend. Top notch articles and photographs. You can buy Le Monde at any newstand, but for regular subscribers it is packaged in plastic and sent through the mail. This works wonderfully, except when there is a strike, in which case you get a pile of Le Mondes all at once. There are quite a few daily papers in Paris - Le Monde, Libération, Le Figaro, Le Parisien to name a few, and tons of magazines. It is a culture that reads a lot. But Le Monde has been struggling, too. I hope the magazines continue to struggle along. I love to go to a Parisian kiosk and see literary magazines, history magazines, and art magazines dominating over People type mags, which the French call "pipole"
which is a play on the word people and peep-hole.

by Levi Asher on

Thanks for the update on the French scene, Michael. Once again, I'm impressed by the apparent depth of our European equivalents, or maybe it's a case of "the grass always greener" ...

by Dan on

Levi -- I've spent a goodly amount of time in Paris (though not nearly as much as Michael), and several other European centers. In my opinion, the grass definitely IS greener there. We Americans are, for the most part, a cowboys-and-Indians society and always will be. I've talked to Michael about returning to Paris to live -- if I could swing it I'd be there tomorrow.

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