It’s a sad state of affairs, but even here in Canada we have only one weekly stand-alone book section. Think of it what you will, but at least the Globe is still doing it. The National Post took a shot at it and then realized there were only so many business books and right wing screeds to review and dumped it. The Star has some good books coverage occasionally, and monthly reviews of poetry by Barbara Carey, but no section. The Sun occasionally covers the latest Maxim Magazine, I think… Then there was that front page article in the St. John’s Telegram on me as a poet and Bookninja a couple weeks ago. I complained about the photo, which was a sneak shot by the photog, but then the editor Russell told me, “Hey, do you know how hard it is to get a poet on the front cover of the paper these days?” Put it into perspective, that did. John Freeman complains in his Guardian blog:
Last week the London Book Fair hosted a panel to discuss the Spanish literary supplement. The tone of the panel was fretful, but it was hard to figure out why. The Spaniards can enjoy over 25 such supplements, we learned, with more on the way. Panellist Rupert Shortt of the Times Literary Supplement blushed for England by comparison.
But at least it wasn’t as bad as in America, he demurred, where between the coasts there “there were great deserts of cultural wasteland”. As a sixth-generation native of Ohio, I should have flipped my baseball cap round, and told Mr. Shortt, “It’s go-time, buddy”. But the sad thing is he was right.
I would be remiss not point out healthy book sections in Cleveland and Kansas City, St Louis and Milwaukee.
But you’ll be hard pressed to find a literary supplement in the beautiful state of North Dakota, or Nebraska, or Wyoming, let alone Iowa City, Iowa, home to the biggest, most prestigious writing program in America.
It’s beginning to seem that if some newspaper owners had their way, the rest of the US would look like this, too.
Let’s forgo this column’s usual essayistic-shambolic approach and be very blunt. I am writing this as a member of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), and am mainly addressing people who belong to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of American University Presses (AAUP).
On behalf of my colleagues, I am making a plea to you for solidarity. We are in trouble. We need your help.
Over the past several years, the economics of daily newspapers have become much more complicated and many paper owners have felt that their profit margins weren’t large enough. Coverage of books has been one of the easiest things to cut. And the cuts have tended to come early and often. They have taken the form of various measures, including shrinking the space available for reviews and interviews; reductions of freelance budgets; and the increased use of syndicated material. Most book pages have always had very small staffs. Now it is rare that more than one editor handles the reviews full-time, and in many cases the entire section has been closed down.
In the defence of those without a books section, the reasoning there is that separating the reviews from the rest of the paper forms an intellectual “ghetto”. What do you think?