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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Afternoon notes 

Publishers Lunch reports that Observer columnist, and personal favorite, Robert McCrum is being considered for the NYT Book Editor job (remember the flurry of speculation from a few weeks back? Neither did I.) But the strike against him is that he's viewed as being "too radical" for the post. Screw that, I hope he gets the job, especially if he gets to keep his weekly column amongst the Book Review's offerings.

It's been ages since I mentioned Dan Fesperman in any sort of context, but now I can do so again: he's interviewed by Baltimore City paper. He talks about his life as a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, the genesis for Vlado Petric and his latest novel, THE SMALL BOAT OF GREAT SORROWS, and how his novels are intertwined with his journalism:

The novels themselves, Fesperman contends, arise out of the veritable flood of information any wartime reporter receives. "You've got all this great stuff that lends itself to treatment," he says. "You can do justice to it to some degree in a newspaper story, but--I heard someone say once that journalism is truth with a little 't' and novels are truth with a capital 'T.' So that's kind of it."

What especially interesting is that Soho Press, which published his first book, LIE IN THE DARK, declined to publish SMALL BOAT because they "thought [he] could get more." Although unusual, it's certainly paid off, as having Knopf on the spine has led to more review coverage and a sense that this is a more "literary" work. That being said, I think the reception in the UK--which released the true first edition in early August--played a large role in the novel's success as well, never mind SMALL BOAT's win in the CWA Steel Dagger competition.

And finally, I had started to come up with a long, involved, detailed rant about why Ben Yagoda's article on Salon is just so completely, utterly wrongheaded. But why bother? It would be like rehashing Tim Adams' condescending article in the Observer over the summer as he read the then-current ten bestsellers of the week, with barely a kind word for any (except for THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, and even that was grudging.) Yagoda, as Jessa pointed out, worships the New Yorker. Not an inherently bad thing, but it means that he's entering in this "exercise" with some serious biases. Which, I suppose, leads me back to the "literary" vs. "genre" argument that will never die, no matter what Mark says (and Terry answers in rebuttal.) Books are like food. Sometimes you're in the mood for sushi or filet mignon, other times McDonald's (or in my case, Kosher Delight, except that I wouldn't go back there in a million years. But I digress.) You can get horrible filet mignon or excellent burgers, or something in between. But if it's a good meal, that's all you remember. If you're going out of your way to criticize the fact that you're eating said burger when you could be eating the filet mignon, well, how could you enjoy it? Same goes if you're uncomfortable with said filet and wish for the burger. Now that I've stretched this analogy to the limit, I'll end with the following: I just want good stuff. Don't we all?

And I guess I did write that long, involved, detailed rant after all. How about that.

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