Monday, January 29, 2007

Blog Birthday and Books

Yesterday was the second anniversary of this blog. Let's drink some tea and lemon in celebration.

And yesterday I read this somewhat odd column by Bob Hoover, book editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (whose work I usually like, I should say) where he laments the influence of the New York Times Book Review. For most of the column, he writes as thought he has forgotten about the Internet and of sites like this that link to a number of on-line avatars of newspaper book sections, highbrow and middlebrow magazines and even publications that call themselves "book reviews" or "reviews of books" or such similar things. Circa 1995, one might read a review of a particular book in the book review sections of the New York Times and of one's local Sunday paper (which unless one lives in Washington is likely to be a pretty small section). Now, someone who cares about books can spend all of Sunday reading book reviews, including multiple reviews of the same book. At the very end of the column, he does note that "unlike the 1960's world... the Internet offers unlimited possibilities." Right. But doesn't that makes the whole premise of the column false?

Also it seems a bit strange for a book editor to lament the out-sized influence of the New York Times while reviewing more or less the same roster of books in one's own book section week after week with a smattering of Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh-connected authors thrown in.

However, his opening comments about antiwar readers abandoning Max Ascoli's The Reporter in the late 1960s over Ascoli's support for Johnson's Vietnam policies appear to be quite timely given the current state of Leftist opinion about that venerable icon of liberal politics, The New Republic. See here for an entry point into the whole set of questions--follow the links and sample the comments at both places (but promise me you won't spend too much time with the comments or you may go as crazy as some of the commentators).

(I tried to stop reading The New Republic a couple of years ago after letting my subscription lapse. Partly I was annoyed that they hadn't fully made amends for spending a couple of years pretending that George Bush was the second coming of Woodrow Wilson [although they did come out strongly--with one exception--for John Kerry in 2004]. Partly I just wanted to save money. But I missed the book reviews and the arts coverage, so I subscribed again a few months ago.)

I got to that business about The New Republic via Bitch, PhD who has just posted a talk she gave at the Modern Language Association conference about the blogosphere and the eighteenth-century public sphere. Worth a look if one has an interest in the history of communication.

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