I’ve always admired how the blogger(s) over at the Literary Saloon manage to maintain an even-tempered voice regardless of how ridiculous the literary world becomes. I think it serves them well, and in a blogosphere that can often get over-heated over virtually nothing, it’s nice to see one site that consistently keeps a level head.
So, I can tell that they’re pretty pissed at the Jan 14 edition of the NYTBR, because this is about as shrill as I’ve ever heard them. Pretty good reading . . . it seems that the Vollmann review in that issue has stirred up some controversy. They’ve got solid coverage of that.
And then there’s this. Shrill!
Sam Tanenhaus has all sorts of excuses about why there’s so little coverage of fiction in the NYTBR
(including that there’s supposedly more, and more important non-fiction
coming out (both of which are debatable)), but the 14 January issue
(and many others) almost read like nothing so much as attempts to prove
fiction is worthless — or at least worth less than non. Sure, there’s
the obligatory and unavoidable review of Martin Amis’ House of Meetings
(we’ll get to that as well, when we get our hands on a copy), but who
the hell chose the rest of this line-up ? Okay, the Allende adds some
much-needed international flavour (and, as a person-focussed
‘historical fiction’ (it’s about the woman who founded Santiago,
Chile), is certainly fiction of the sort that seems to appeal to
Tanenhaus) and may be worth a mention, but we don’t think we’d have
bothered (and the reviewer concludes: "as a work of fiction, her
portrait of Inés is hit-and-miss" — but then again for Tanenhaus how a
work of fiction works "as a work of fiction" hardly seems of interest
…). Then there’s Richard Lourie on Leslie Epstein’s The Eight Wonder of the World
("All he really consists of is a single, endlessly repeated verbal
tic", Lourie writes about the protagonist, and offers up at least one
"stupefyingly unfunny attempt at comedy" from the book). There’s the
Swofford slam, and Neil Genzlinger doesn’t seem very amused by "Tim
Sandlin’s new comic novel". Indeed, the most enthusiasm any of this
week’s fiction reviewers can muster is Bliss Broyard on a
sounds-like-a-chick-lit-novel by Patricia Marx — and what telling
praise some of it is: "Marx’s novel made me laugh so hard that I kept
trying to read lines aloud to my boyfriend, who — looking up from The Magic Mountain — wasn’t persuaded".
Okay, I’m game. Why did Tanenhaus let such ridiculous criticism as "I kept reading lines aloud to my boyfriend" stand? Tanenhaus! You’re an editor . . . Edit!
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