The folly of downsizing book reviews
Battle of the book reviews
CRITICAL MASS: The blog of the national book critics circle board of directors
Salman Rushdie and Stephen Colbert discuss literary criticism
Help Protect Atlanta's Book Review
Over the past few years, newspapers around the country have been eliminating or downsizing their book review sections. Newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the Chicago Tribune to the most recent Atlanta Journal Constitution have slowly removed their book editor position. Some, such as the San Francisco Chronicle folded their book review section into another part of the newspaper but after strong community protests it was restored. Although San Francisco Chronicle readers have their beloved Book Review Section back, it has been cut in half to make room for advertising. Newspapers who have made cuts cite reasons such as the lack of readership due to the growing popularity of online reviews, but book critics and authors both worry about the trend. The Washington Post and the New York Times have increased their coverage of book reviews in order to provide more content for those loosing their book review sections, but overall the trend is to remove or drastically downsize the book review section of newspapers. Over the past month, the National Book Critics Circle has launched a campaign to save book reviews. They began a blog, Critical Mass, which posts comments from writers, book editors, critics, newspaper editors and owners. It might seem odd that authors would be concerned about the demise of their fiercest critics, but book critics play an important role in the world of books. Critics are known for finding hidden treasures by unknown authors, books that may go unnoticed by the book reading public. While well-known authors need book critics less than their unknown colleagues, most note the importance of critics early in their career. John Updike, in his rules for book reviewing observed the important relationship between reviewer and public: "The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end."
The first link will take users to a piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the recent changes by newspaper's book review sections. The second link will take users to an Opinion piece in the Los Angeles times by author Michael Connelly criticizing the downsizing of book reviews. The third link leads to another piece in the LA Times, discussing the pros and cons of print versus online book reviews. The fourth link leads to the National Book Critics Circle's new blog, Critical Mass, which includes interesting posts by critics, authors, editors and more. The fifth link will whisk users to a short video of Salman Rushdie's recent visit to the Colbert Report to discuss the recent moves by newspapers to downsize book reviews and explain why critics aren't necessarily the enemies of authors. The last link leads to an online petition that contains more than 5,000 signatures (including Rushdie and Norman Mailer). The petition asks that the Atlanta Journal Constitution restore its book section. Anyone may sign and show their support, and they may also peruse the names of those who have already signed to search for the many influential authors who are concerned with this recent trend.