Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Richard Ford Trilogy, NYT Style

A Seattle reader of the New York Times has done what has needed to be done for a long time: he has socked it to the newspaper over its odd policy of often reviewing the same book twice, once on the weekday pages and once in the Sunday review. In this case, he's talking about what he saw as excessive coverage of Richard Ford's new novel, The Lay of the Land. The novel got two reviews, a reasonably poor one from Michiko Kakutani, and a more glowing specimen from the paper's film critic A.O. Scott. In between the two, the Arts section carried a front-page feature on Ford and the travels he undertook as part of his book research. At this stage, the reader wondered whether Ford had an "in" with the newspaper.

Publishing a feature as well as a review seems reasonable to me, especially in the case of a book as eagerly awaited as this one, which is the last in Ford's acclaimed Frank Bascombe trilogy. But the policy of double-reviewing has never made sense to me, particularly since the reviews are often in complete opposition to one another. Yes, there's a lot to be said for diversity of critical voices on a new title, but not in this form. Either publish one review and have another critic respond to that review, or publish one review full stop. Or, publish one review and allow the opportunity for another perspective on the book to come across in the course of a feature or interview. But publishing two reviews? Get off the fence. And use the weekday pages for other books. It's not like there aren't enough of them waiting to be reviewed.

Read the complaint, and the borderline-sniffy response from the NYT's public editor, here. (Registration may be required, but it's free.)

I'm off to my first class with Orhan Pamuk. Up for discussion is Mann's Tonio Kroger. Report later on...

7 comments:

Kevin Breathnach said...

I'm off to my first class with Orhan Pamuk. Up for discussion is Mann's Tonio Kroger. Report later on...

...well?

hesitant hack said...

Hmmm. I've been wondering whether to blog about that. It wasn't the mind-blowing experience I hoped it would be. But I suppose it deserves a fuller report than that. Ok, coming up. Thanks for asking...

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