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.
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .