Saturday, January 13, 2007


DEC/JAN 2007 Issue

Strange though it may seem, I have only just started researching and reading book review magazines. I'm not in a place in which I could explain why that is, especially given what I'm doing now and that, second only to reading books myself, my favorite pastime is reading about people's opinions on other reading. In any case, I decided to start my overdue research with "The New York Review of Books." Who could argue that what's written between the pages of the NYBR is anything but great writing? Certainly not I. What I could argue is that, much in the same way that "New Yorker" articles have a tendency to run on too long, those in the NYRB also tend to stay way past their welcome. I appreciate great writing as much as the next person - what kind of obsessive reader would I be if I didn't - but I also think that if there is a word limit imposed upon the critics who write for the NYRB, it is much too high. However, I shall persevere, even if it does take me a month to finish a biweekly magazine.

And then just two weeks ago, I came across a wonderful magazine called "BookForum." It looked more colorful and definitely thinner than NYRB so I decided, what the heck, couldn't hurt right? As it turns out, I was right and I have found a new favorite magazine. For one, the articles are only one, maybe two pages long. I sound like one of the horrible readers who have the attention span of a fly don't I? I'm not really. I simply appreciate clear and concise writing. But besides concise pieces, "BookForum" also features some great writing. In this issue there were pieces written by Andrea Walker, a member of the editorial staff for the "New Yorker", Francine Prose, author of How to Read Like a Writer, and Rob Spillman, editor of the much-esteemed "Tin House" literary magazine.

Reading "BookForum" was not just enjoyable - though it was that, and reason enough for why I finished it in one day, unheard of for me - but it was also educational. So this, I thought as I reading, is how a criticism should look, how it should sound. So this is to what I should aspire. The difference between reading the NYRB and "BookForum" is the difference between listening to a lecture and having a conversation. The former can be educational, no doubt, but the latter is more engaging. I felt engaged as a reader as I breezed from one article to another in BookForum and it is the same feeling that I would like my readers to have.

It seems this will be a year of education and improvement for me. But I suppose, if we're lucky, that's what every day of every year should be.