HuffPo’s Book Section
14 October 2009
Both The Second Pass and The Rumpus are disappointed/perplexed by the Huffington Post‘s new books section, a partnership (of sorts) with the New York Review of Books.
The Second Pass finds HuffPo editor Amy Hertz‘s open letter to the publishing industry, where she disparages the traditional review as a “conversation ender,” “dispiriting,” and a little surprising, given the partnership with NYRB. The Rumpus wonders where the literature section is.
Clicking over to browse the site, I found a number of interesting topics and headlines that I might well spend a little time this week reading — posts about independent bookstores, new technology and small presses, a review (yes, a review) of Philip Roth‘s new book. Oddly, as The Second Pass describes, across the top of each article are tabs you can click in “response” to the article; your choices are: amazing, inspiring, funny, scary, hot, crazy, important, weird. I’m not sure yet if you can click more than one, but that would be sort of fun, I think–like, you know, that refrigerator poetry thing. (This review of Philip Roth’s book is crazy important.)
This piece by Gerald Sindell -- a complaint about the NY Times‘s repeat coverage of what he calls “pet” books (at first I thought he meant literally — books about pets) — ruffled me a little, not because the subject isn’t perfectly valid and important (maybe even crazy important), but because of its sloppiness. The title of the piece is, “Why Michiko? Why?” I clicked on it at first because it promised to be an article about why Michiko Kakutani–why she has so much power, or why she is the coveted reviewer. But in fact, there is a crucial comma missing, which changes the meaning. It should be, “Why, Michiko? Why?” (i.e. why are you giving disproportionate coverage to certain books?). Sindell also refers to the “NY Time’s proclivity” (are we talking about the newspaper, or the weekly magazine?) and “Mike Blumberg” (is this an accepted shorthand for Michael Bloomberg? If so, I stand corrected).
I know the bloggers at HuffPo aren’t paid, and I feel their pain. Blog posts are usually written quickly, and it’s painful how little time we have to make them right. So, no particular offense meant to Mr. Sindell; but it’s hard not to feel uneasy about the ways in which speed and volume of material are displacing attention to words–which, last I checked, is still the basis of all good writing.