Wednesday, April 14, 2004

O Tanenhaus, O Tanenhaus 

The New York Times has fresh eyes for its book review. That's right, Sam Tanenhaus has begun his reign as editor, and as Ed pointed out, the quirks are showing through. Dinitria Smith profiles Robin Robertson's new book on author humiliations, which I must must read for myself. And Tanenhaus himself is the subject of David Kipen's column in the SF Chronicle, who has tracked down the long-out-of-print "Literature Unbound: The Guide for the Common Reader." Are we lit-minded folks to worry about Tanenhaus's reign? Not so:

On the basis of "Literature Unbound," then, if the Times wanted the book review dumbed down, they picked the wrong puppy. If they wanted a conservative, they got a good one, not an ideologue. This only means -- as with our governor, as with a few leftists in power -- that dissidents need to keep an eye on the people Tanenhaus hires, to keep him honest. (Don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are conservatives. But some of their friends are nuts.)

Finally, if the Times wanted somebody to sell fiction down the river, they're obviously fishing up the wrong stream. Tanenhaus loves fiction. OK, mainly by dead people, but even so. The secret to editing an engaging book section has always been reviewing dead writers as if they were alive, and living ones as if they were dead.

Obviously, it remains to be seen just what, if any, changes Tanenhaus can effect, but I'm remaining optimistic. For now.

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