May 23rd, 2006


(no subject)

It's probably just age and the concomitant grumpiness and dyspeptic view of all that is present, but it seems to me that the New York Times Book Review has degenerated badly in the last five years or so.  The same flaws may be evident in other journals (though I don't sense it in the Washington Post or the TLS) but certainly the Times is the worst.  Five years ago the reviews had got boring, jejune, and except for powerhouse books about politics or money, tended to be reviewed by nobodies.  Then some sort of makeover happened and the reviews got callow, smarty-pants, and worse written, and the new nobodies all seemed to be about 25.  This particularly in the fiction department.  There is a constant sense that the reviewer is trying to be above the mere job of reviewing, to be  mostly interested in a kind of preening self-regard using the book under review as a pretext.  Is this just youth?  Which must be served?  The most blatant recent example is this Sunday's review by David Itzikoff of a novel called jPod, by the author of Mocroserfs.  It was quite astonishing in its focus on the reviewer (the ploy of presenting oneself as dismissable and pitiably self-involved yet fascinating) and was little more than a compound of cultural references slyly trumpeted (yes, the review pulled that off) as triumphantly obscure (that too).   Isn't this supposed to be the new SF columnist of the Times?  I have seen only one such -- his sef-involved and self-flattering review of Marusek's novel Changing Heads.

It's reported that Buster Keaton in old age was induced to watch television for a couple of hours, and he watched a parade of "hosts" and "MC"s and celebrity intrerviewers and jokester gameshow conductors before turning to his companion and asking in bewilderment "Who are these people?"