22 July 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

According to Rachel Deahl at PW Sam Zell (and presumably the rest of the Tribune Co. employees with their insane capitalization) has finally had his way with the standalone L.A. Times Book Review section and is folding it into the Calendar Section. (Man, that seems like an insult—couldn’t they at least fold the Calendar into the Books Section?) Even worse is the fact that they’re laying off two dedicated book review editors.

Of course, the Tribune Co. is still “committed” to books (and winning the World Series one century after the perennial “wait till next year” campaign began . . . good luck with that one, Cubbies!):

Nancy Sullivan, executive director of corporate communications at the paper, would not comment on any staff cuts or the future of the standalone book review section. Noting that more definitive news would be issued next week, she said that “the Times remains committed to book review coverage. What form that takes is what’s under evaluation.” But Wasserman said that the book review staff has been cut from five to three, and book review coverage will be placed in the Calendar section of the paper where it will share space with features.

Wasserman—along with three other past L.A. Times book review editors—released a statement about this situation:

The dismantling of the Sunday Book Review section and the migration of a few surviving reviews to the Sunday Calendar section represents a historic retreat from the large ambitions which accompanied the birth of the section. [. . .]

Angelenos in growing number are already choosing to cancel their subscriptions to the Sunday Times. The elimination of the Book Review, a philistine blunder that insults the cultural ambition of the city and the region, will only accelerate this process and further wound the long-term fiscal health of the newspaper.

We urge readers and writers alike to join with us as we protest this sad and backward step.

This is really depressing . . . I’m afraid to google the actual answer, but I think that means that there’s only 2 or 3 remaining standalone book sections in the U.S.

9 July 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From Tell Zell here’s an excerpt of a memo from Lee Abrams, Chief Innovation Officer at the Tribune Co.:

*Books: Heard a conversation about how Book reporting doesn’t generate revenue and may have to go away. WAIT! Maybe Book reviews and coverage are one of those things that don’t generate revenue right now, BUT—are trademarks for newspapers and elicit high passion from readers. At XM, we had Opera channels. Low listenership…HIGH passion…AND—it was one of those things that even if people didn’t listen or even like Opera, it was one of those things you had to have for completeness. Maybe Book sections in newspapers are just dated. Not the idea…but the look and feel. Maybe they’re modeled after a book store in 1967 whereas we’re in the Borders, Amazon, B&N era. Maybe they are too scholarly. Maybe they avoid genres like Christian books, Celebrity books and Popular novels, opting instead for reviews of the Philippine Socialist Movement in the 1800’s. The point here is maybe Book sections need to be as dramatically re-thought as Borders re-thought retail. Not dumbing down—but getting in sync with the 21st Century mainstream book reader.

Well, um, where to start? First off, I can’t imagine the Chicago Tribune reviewing many titles about the “Philippine Socialist Movement in the 1800’s.” [Sic—good thing they hire copy editors to check punctuation.] Really, if they were wasting space on titles like this, where would the put all the coverage of the baseball books?

Secondly, it seems pretty stupid to praise XM’s Opera station as “one of those things you had to have for completeness,” and then turn around five sentences later and imply that book review sections shouldn’t be so highbrow and should have reviews of “Christian books, Celebrity books and Popular novels.” [Again, sic re: this insane capitalization. I know it’s an e-memo, but please, you work for a fricking newspaper.]

I’m all in favor of newspapers retaining their books coverage (seriously, here in Rochester, there’s next to nothing, and I know things are even worse in places like Normal, IL), but with people like this in charge of newspapers, it’s even more pressing that outlets like NPR and PRI’s The World pick up the slack.

Oh, and because I can’t help myself—it’s management like this that’s the reason why the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in a century. That and Kerry Wood.

....
The Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

Read More >

This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

Read More >

A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

Read More >

Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

Read More >

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

Read More >

Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

Read More >

Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

Read More >