The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Shallow critique

Posted on: January 29, 2008

I haven’t even read past the first paragraph yet and I’m in my “office” (with two other grad students) but I just signed up for the thing, damn it, and look what they’ve gone and done to me (to me). Long time readers know how I feel about such moves so my response was quick and visceral.


via Sarah Weinman (whose presence I miss dearly at mediabistro’s GalleyCat).

Few minutes later:

But McConnell promised that Bookforum “will remain a book review. I imagine it will be broken down roughly in thirds—one third fiction, one third academic and one third current affairs, but book based.”

Noooooooo! No, no, no, no, no. It doesn’t work. It’s not going to remain literary. It won’t. I’ve seen it at other periodicals. They may review books but the criticism never fails to focus on the ideological to the exclusion of practically all else and it’s no use pretending otherwise. Didn’t I praise you guys for not resorting to this two months ago?

They don’t do the really really long journal-type articles either, but give moderate, even space to a lot of different kinds of books, as much fiction as non-fiction, and not a lot of politics, bless their hearts, but more focused on various cultural figures and movements, artists, musicians. Do you know how rare it is to find great, smart magazines that don’t feel they have to stuff their pages with a bunch of stuff on Iraq and Abraham Lincoln to be taken seriously? This is love!

You’re not fooling me. Don’t think you’re going to hide under the “it’s all books, luv!” and not have me point out that that doesn’t necessitate the coverage being literary or about culture. (I hope all the artsy/music stuff falls under that one third given to academic. You’re not pushing out stuff on awesomely (to me) eccentric French musicians I’d never heard of before so you can publish yet another damn review on a Tariq Ramadan book. ) I’m finding myself a multibillionaire husband so I can fund in perpetuity my own god damned magazine since apparently one can’t depend on subscribers to fund anything approaching my ideal.

Few more minutes later:

Oh, and you see what happens there? Non-fiction will now “roughly” take up two thirds of the publication. All of my beautiful, beautiful fiction reviews…gone! So I can read ANOTHER critique on George W. Bush, another insight into the mysterious Islamic mind. I’m not even entertaining the hope that their current affairs section will cover any issue one couldn’t find in a host of other publications.


11 Responses to "Shallow critique"

This is worrying. I will wait and see what happens but I’m extremely concerned. Yuck yuck yuck.

Well, you know, “current events coverage” is so hard to find anywhere else.

Abraham Lincoln was in Iraq?

… wasn’t he from Illinois?

Oh, that’s Obama!

… so where does Lincoln come in?

You see, we do need magazine to keep us honest on these things.

Verbivore yes, there is nothing to do but wait and see but unless they’re thinking radically out of the box with this “current affairs” angle, Pasolini will have to make way for another analysis of Berlusconi’s prospects for retaking leadership. :/ Whoopee. Can’t wait.

Amateur Reader *sigh* You should try to be more optimistic! Someone should.

Jacob Russell in the millions of biographies written and yet to be written on Lincoln at least one of them should contain such a fun fact; and we can count on the dozens of periodicals to cover them all over and over and over…

This sucks. Really crap news. We are awash with current affairs and news magazines — much of them disconcertingly idiotic, but still …

Bookforum was an oasis of book-devotion. Giving a third of the magazine up to news/political coverage is just awful. I doubt I’ll renew my subscription now …

And, as has been said, can one really imagine them covering anything that isn’t covered a thousand times over (and better) in other news mags? And won’t this drive away their core bookish readers?

Rubbish. Rubbish. Rubbish.

😦 I’m sending you a hug. I’m being serious. I can feel your pain on this one. Luckily we all have your blog.

Mark it truly was and it was why I was so pleased to finally get acquainted with it last year. I signed up for a brand new 2008 subscription and was anticipating an excellent year for lit mags–I am with LRB and Harper’s Magazine (which has excellent political coverage, thank you BF) — only to be cruelly cut by this new measure.

I wonder if I can make a deal and get archive issues rather than new ones for the year…

Heather T. I need it, thank you. I’m glad someone understands how disheartening I find this move and its larger implications of how literature is valued.

Will you wear a black armband for Bookforum, or would that be a political statement? 😉

Damn it, you all, I really appreciate the kind words about Bookforum! And if you ever land the wealthy spouse, call me–we can do serious business! Best, Eric Banks, Editor, BF

John M I should start an organization, recruit members, hold rallies, make banners and t-shirts (and armbands) and protest this near-sighted, misguided move…


Eric Banks it is too bad my own career prospects don’t lie in the direction of multibillionaire businesses or I’d get crackin’ on that myself. I thought the world of BF — I even knew your name and, typically, I never seek out that sort of info. (I don’t know who heads the TLS, for example, and I’ve read it for a longer time.)

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