Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

End of an Experiment: Releasing the Review

By Levi Asher on Saturday, June 19, 2010 08:14 pm

It's time for something new.

I've been reviewing the New York Times Book Review every weekend for more than five years now, and even though I recently said I was planning to keep it going, some recent turns have caused me to reconsider. First, I had to skip the review twice in the last three weeks, and just found (somewhat to my surprise) that I didn't miss it very much. Also, I predicted four weeks ago that the Book Review would soon feature an affectionate cover piece on Christopher Hitchens's Hitch-22; not only have I hit that nail on the head, but I also find myself with no desire whatsoever to read the piece. My weekly blogging experiment is getting predictable, and that means it's run its course. I'll keep reading the New York Times Book Review -- I'm a captive fan for life -- but I'm going to start using this weekend spot to do something different, and hopefully more exciting and innovative, instead.

I'll reveal more next weekend when I begin, but what I have in mind addresses my longtime wish to write more about philosophy, ethics and practical debate on this site. These topics absolutely fascinate me, but structured arguments take a lot of time and attention, and putting aside the Book Review review will give me more free time to spend on this.

My decision to put these philosophy-blogging plans into fast-forward was partly inspired by the recent arrival of three new books I want to write about on this site: God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero, Fate, Time and Language: An Essay on Free Will by David Foster Wallace (his college thesis, published posthumously) and J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature by Anton Leist and Peter Singer.

All three of these books are "literary" works of academic or popular philosophy, and I'm excited about devoting one weekly corner of Literary Kicks, starting next weekend, to books, articles and ideas that fall into this category. I haven't thought up a name for the new series yet, but we'll come up with something. See you here next week! And I hope somebody out there (HTML Giant, maybe? I don't know) will continue writing about the New York Times Book Review. Because I'm off the case.


This article is part of the Reviewing the New York Times Book Review series. The previous post in the series is Reviewing the Review: June 6 2010.


14 Responses to "End of an Experiment: Releasing the Review"

Good for you, Levi. Hitch is so over.

You know who I'd like to see you bitch slap, I mean debate? Ann C. Coulter. Al Franken's done a pretty good job in the past, but he always forgets to yank that hidden earpiece out of her External Auditory Canal. That one move would amount to a winning rhetorical stratergery, decisively cutting her off from the ventriloquists' puke being radioed in on a frequency only she wolves can perceive. (I heard Sam Tanenhuas had auditioned for her behind-the-scenes team but didn't even make it into the semis. While he had the correct political orientation, in spades, he didn't have the verbal chops, so he became editor of the Book Review instead. What the hell, it's a living.) Anyway, it'd be Palinesque fun to watch her sputter and spew and, ahem, try to stay the course while choking on her own vomit.

I know, I know, it would involve actually touching that nasty skank, and you're a family man. But that's why God made Purell hand sanitizer.

BTW, I love their motto: Imagine a Touchable World[!]

by hepcat on

As much as I've enjoyed reading your review of the review, and miss it I will, I'm looking forward to your new column. There's a lot of room for intelligent debate on philosophy and politics even more so in lieu of the sensationalist tripe that gets peddled on the telly. However, you may find yourself overwhelmed with monitoring readers' responses as politics tends to draw forth the crazies, especially since your ideals lean to the left. Fair warning!

hepcat,

With all respect, for God's sakes, there's no need to condescend. Don't you know who you're dealing with over here? This is Litkicks we're talking about. Levi's posted on Jewcy and lived to tell the tale. If he can face those musheggeneh Yids down, don't you think he could take on the Rush Limbaughs and Ann C. Coulters of the world, and their wackolytes. Heavens to Betsy!

BTW, I think Hitch converted. I wonder if he talks about that in his memoir (and what the heck do they do about circumcision in a case like that? Hmm. More grist for the philosophical grill, I mean mill. Yikes!)

by TKG on

I don't know why so many people seem to like to rag on Michael Palin.

Ann Coulter is funny with a fair amount of Pythonesque humor, but all this hate on Micheal Palin -- I don't get it.

Fish slap dance.

As far as the NYTBR, it isn't all that relevant. I have always liked that in it, or in any book review, I will find books that are interesting and I want to read. That happens once a few months. Most books reviewed aren't worth it and will be long forgotten.

Today the only book I find interesting at all is Globish. The review, though, while with some interesting info, made it sound dull. It did though provide enough info to make one wary of the author's competence. Bush Derangement System, fun as it must be for those afflicted, ought not impact a history of the spread of English over the past few centuries.

I must say for the NYTBR that I really appreciate the excerpts that are available.

Maintenant, ainsi, le critique du critique c'est mort. Vivle le critique toujours.

Thank you Levi, well done.

by Levi Asher on

Well, now, I do think it's a requirement of good argument for all participants to approach each other with respect, even when there are major differences of opinion or style. So there won't be any bitch-slapping here, not for Ann Coulter or even anybody named Palin. I'm hoping to create something much harder to find, online or elsewhere -- truly thoughtful debate on a wide range of important topics. Can such a project actually work? We shall see ...

by Brad on

Sorry to see the Reviewing the Review feature go, I looked forward to it each week. But I'm happy to read about your new feature and will eagerly wait for it to begin.

Keep up the good work, this is a great blog!

Brad

If it's really genuine substance in lieu of sensationalist melodrama and hissy-fits you're hoping to spotlight, as a prologue, you could do worse than to note this rich-in-talking-points agenda. http://www.nader.org/index.php?/archives/2192-Washington-Theater-of-the-... Or this one: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/

That being said, if you decide you do wish to focus on neutralizing Coulter's rhetorical impact in a make-or-break election cycle, then Levi, I hope you know, I've got your back.

by KKizer on

Hitchens' book is a fascinating read, btw. He's lived quite the adventurous life. I like Amis, so it pains me to say his latest is a "must pass".

Side note: for some reason, "Hitch-22" was on the store shelves here in Peoria, Ill., some 10 days before the "official" release date.

by Levi Asher on

Thanks for that info, Kevin. I have nothing against Christopher Hitchens, and spent a little time browsing the book myself. But I'm completely disinterested in his celebrity image, and I'm also completely disinterested in Martin Amis's celebrity image, and I'm sick of these fawning NYTBR cover articles filled with jokes about who these writers may have slept with and how much they drink.

Why on earth should I care how much Christopher Hitchens drinks? But I'd read a serious examination of his ideas if any publication were to publish one. Don't think that's happened recently anywhere I know.

by Dan on

Frances - hand sanitzer? You'd need a hazmat suit! And go through one of those chemical showers afterward. And the nightmares you'd have!

ah, the review of the review was getting old, anyway.

by Shelley on

Gore Vidal would applaud you.

by Mayowa on

I have to admit I'd like to see you take on Ms. Coulter, but I'll take some thoughtful debate too.

Looking forward to your new feature.

by Charlotte on

I have to admit that I'd not care very much for you to "take on" any particular person (I can't say that the ones named here even show very much on my radar...), but a discussion of ideas I feel too incompetent to tackle on my own would be a delight!
Philosophy is intimidating and vital -- I very much look forward to a guiding hand.

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