Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Has Losing Its Book Editor Made A Significant Difference?

Sometime last year The Hartford Courant, my local big city paper, lost its book editor. So what else is new, right? Lots of papers lost their book editors last year.

I'm guessing the average Courant reader barely notices the difference.

Back in the day, The Courant ran book reviews on Sundays. Maybe you'd see a half dozen reviews. New books from known state authors like Stewart O'Nan, Luanne Rice, Annie Dillard, etcetera, etcetera, would be reviewed as well as buzzworthy books from new literary writers.

In the months since we've been without an editor, we're still getting around four book reviews on Sundays. There's usually a review or an article by the former book editor, such as this past weekend's piece on Connecticut author Chris Knopf. Then we get a couple of reviews that are picked up from some service, such as Sunday's review from Newsday of Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton. This past weekend we also had a review of Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir by Christopher Buckley, which originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times just four days earlier.

Diversion: If other newspapers are picking up book reviews from services rather than paying for their own, doesn't that make the service reviews unbelievably important? Isn't there going to be a uniformity of opinion on, say, Laura Rider's Masterpice, if a lot of newspapers are all running the same review?

Back to our regularly scheduled post:

So we're getting a lot of the same kinds of things in The Courant that we got when we had a book editor. We're also getting something we didn't get when we had one--reviews of children's books.

Once a month, The Courant carries one of those theme columns on children's books, this one written by Nicholas A. Basbanes. I can't find his columns archived at The Courant's site, but he has the column that I'm looking at in Sunday's hard copy of The Courant up at his own website. According to his "About the Author" info, this column appears in a dozen newspapers.

Okay, a gang/group syndicated kidlit review when the adult books are given individual ones (even if most of them are are syndicated, too) definitely indicates The Courant considers children's books second rate. But the thing is, back when we had a book editor The Courant didn't know kids' books existed, forget about having an opinion about whether or not they were second rate. Every few years it would mention the authors attending the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, usually in a weekly insert that no one I know reads except for me. It might do an article on some phenomena like Twilight or Harry Potter, but only after everyone else in the world had covered it. Real reviews of children's literature--zip.

So a monthly children's book column is actually an improvement over what we had when we had a real book editor. I can't complain about the change.

Training Report: Trouble in family Gauthier. We have an older member with torn cartilage in her knee, which is why last week was such a disaster for me workwise. And I'm not the one in pain. I just managed to get in one segment for the 365 Story Project today, though I do have a new story arc to work with. Plus I now know what a meniscus tear is, and don't think I won't use it.



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