Tomorrow you can sit down and read the New York Times Book Review childrens' literature special insert. The annual feature is one way to find a choice picture book to give to a young person, and it also gives us the gift of the insane seriousness with which the Times reviewers treat the subject. The task of making these kinds of books relevant to the adult reader is admittedly a difficult one, and yet the best of the overwrought sentences that follow truly make us feel like children again. Unbelievably stupid children.Our favorite five bon mots:
The New York Times Book Review is expanding its bestseller lists as of next week; now there'll be 110 bestsellers all told. Paperback listings will be broken out into mass market and trade paperback categories. The expansion comes at the cost of an editorial page. Why the change? "'It's completely ad driven,' says a top executive at one of the major houses. 'People want to buy a position next to the lists.' Publishers are also more likely to buy ads—whether in the weekday books pages of the Times or in the Book Review—when their titles are New York Times best sellers." [New York Business]
Judith Regan, the former head of ReganBooks, her imprint at HarperCollins, was hatchet-jobbed by Rupert Murdoch back in December—but her fantastic editorial vision lives on! This week, she has book on the Hardcover Advice bestseller list and on the Hardcover Nonfiction list—billed, as announced in January, as HarperCollins books. HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, a ringleader of the "Jewish cabal" that "forced Regan out" (yes, so many scare quotes there!) has had her final revenge.
In an otherwise decent New York Times Book Review appraisal of Twice As Good, a new biography about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland displays the tin ear so many of his compatriots (the Economist) have for the nuances of American politics. After an entire page describing the Secretary's control and discipline, which one might think would keep any sensible person from being enthralled by George W. Bush (apparently not), Freedland suggests that we're looking at a future occupant of the Oval Office.
As more people get their news online than ever, our country is locked in a fierce struggle to keep its newspaper book reviews from extinction. But while books sections nationwide reduce their coverage or shutter entirely, some papers are bravely experimenting with new digital bells and whistles — the kind of value-added content that keeps the youngsters infotained. For example, did you know that every week, Times Book Review Editor Sam Tanenhaus talks to authors, editors, critics and senior editor and best-seller columnist Dwight Garner about new books for a podcast? He does! And the hippest part—besides getting to hear the dulcet tones of Meghan O'Rourke and such, of course— is the New York Times Book Review theme song. Go on, listen. For those about to rock, we salute you.
A fun game for poetry nerds: read the first line or sentence of a favorite poet's first book, and imagine it as a summary of the writer's entire career... Meghan O'Rourke, the culture editor of Slate, offers a terse contribution to the first-sentence genre in this, her debut collection: "My poor eye."
It's going to be a warm and sunny weekend, which is a good thing considering that you're not going to be indoors reading the Sunday New York Times. If the Big Three sections (Arts, Books, Mag) are any indication, you'll quickly scan the sports scores and then head out to the park for some ultimate frisbee or whatever. So now we will helpfully describe to you, rapid-fire, what you'll be skipping over so you can sound all smart next week. You're welcome!
The fun on today's Times corrections page never stops. Ben Schott's March 4 back-matter essay "Confessions of a Book Abuser" (which—irony alert—we've honored previously in the "most bizarre ethical distinction" T.M.I. category) apparently cribs ideas and a whole, highly specific anecdote from Anne Fadiman's "Never Do that to a Book," part of her 1998 essay collection Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. No, people don't read much no more, but we sure love to know about destroying culture, one trade paperback at a time; unfortunately Schott's methods were rather too similar to Fadiman's, and neither involved the thermodynamic constant 451 deg F. When they weren't awkwardly wrestling/awkwardly making out with n+1, the lit blogs have been on the Schott story for a while, and now the Times comes clean, sort of. Spicy details follow about the subconscious internalizations of European chambermaids.
Two early-30s New York Magazine contributing editors, two strikingly similar reviews of 'Dirty Blonde' — one in the mag, one in this weekend's NYT Book Review.
First, the confession of fandom:
Ariel Levy: "For this I love Courtney Love. Oh that's right, I sometimes think when I hear her, her music is actually really different, and really good."
Emily Nussbaum: "Her 1994 album "Live Through This" was the first rock I'd ever heard that really focused on women, with lyrics about breast-feeding and rape and competition, but done with humor and a nutsy aggression rare among female performers. I listened to it about 50 times."
But what's Love's big failing?
This week's white-knuckle Times Book Review features a an over-educated Yale graduate reviewing the new novel by an over-educated Yale graduate. Which, everyone is going to want to read that, right? Then there's the super pretentious review of a super pretentious book that name drops every author who's ever died. And then a bunch of fawning letters to Joe Queenan who wrote about reading in which, finally, the snake of the New York literatti swallows its own tail, drinks its own Kool Aid, and bores the rest of us to death. After the jump, our own over-educated Yale graduate, Intern Alexis, tries to keep it all down.
In this very special issue of the Times Book Review, editor Sam Tanenhaus' gang tackles the difficult issue of denim. How to wear it? Where to wear it? How much is too much? Why would someone pay $160 for Joe's Jeans? And what sort of Times editor would let this business make it into the Review? After getting over this formidable issue of fashion, the Review goes with silly author websites, the trouble with erections, and a super-nasty slap across Irvine Welsh's face. After the jump, Intern Alexis puts down the pipe and gives you your semi-educated crib notes to this week's review.
In the latest edition of the Times book review, the critic's gang tackles both Seth Mnookin and Toby Young's latest titles, coming up with the same verdict for two very different books: vanilla. Nothing wrong with them, but they're certainly not awesome, either. Pity. Add to the mix some requisite Islam talk and a special moment in which Charles McGrath uses the word "penis," and you've got this week's review. Intern Alexis' guide to sounding like you've touched book, after the jump.
After a little vacation, Intern Alexis is back with her recap of the latest installment of the Times shitter-friendly Book Review. This week, Joe Queenan talks about how's he such a darn good reader, metaphors get out of control and Sam Tanenhaus fills some blank pages with some insomniac ramblings (good as anything else, really). After the jump, your weekly guide to sounding as if you'd know a book if it hit you on your head.