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Another one bites the dust

And another one gone: On Sunday the Los Angeles Times folded its separate book review section, leaving only three U.S. newspapers with standalone book sections (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune). Why? Haul out the usual suspects: declining readership, no ads, the Internet.

Kassia Krozser has an interesting take on the whole situation over at booksquare.com. She wastes no time slamming Sam Zell (poohbah of the Tribune Company) but goes on to make more pointed observations:

I believe that the greatest failure of the LATBR was its inability to convince more citizens of LA that it had value to them — it’s possible to have serious literary discourse side by side with a little bit of what a friend described as the People model. I don’t believe that making the section more relevant for a broader readership is the same thing as dumbing it down. Smart readers should be courted, not locked out.

As we all know, smart women read romance. And literary fiction. And mystery. And science fiction. And a whole lot of other stuff. And women buy more books than men. The LATBR often felt like a gentleman’s club — the books reviewed, the reviewers, the subject matter. This is largely reflective of it top editorial staff, but it’s also a reflection of the value placed on “women’s” fiction and issues. Some weeks it was if there was a “No Girls Allowed” sign on the LATBR.

This is why, at the Herald, in our tiny space, we try to cover genre fiction as well as literary fiction. It's not an exact science by any means. But we try. This doesn't mean we won't review John Updike, but we just might write about Candace Bushnell, too.

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nan

Good point! And especially tragic since SOME people at the LA Times get it, judging by this story: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-ca-shame27-2008jul27,0,1460307.story
Personally I prefer the Entertainment Weekly model over the People model -- just because EW focuses on the work rather than the personal shenanigans -- but they include good (meaning interesting and well-written, not necessarily positive) reviews every single week -- and as everyone bemoans the death of newspaper book review sections, you rarely see that mentioned. I've found a lot of good reads from their reviews, in a variety of genres.

Connie

That's a good article...I'm with you on the EW reviews. They actually are amazing when you consider how short they are. To a large extent book critics doom themselves when they write ridiculously long reviews. I've had struggles getting many reviewers to keep things under 20 inches (and EW reviews are more like five!) Now me saying that is heresy - I'm supposed to WANT every review to be 50 inches - but the sad fact is, we have less space in newspapers, and we need to make the space we do have count. That's why I like to run capsule reviews, but they're very hard to find, and you can find very few writers who can pull them off succintly. Certain types of reviews are natural to that format - say, suspense thrillers, where you really don't want to get too much into the plot because it gives away the entire game.

Phoebe

Come on, woman. I know you can find a chicktion author to cite who isn't egregiously horrible. Wait, it's possible you've never been personally subjected to just how bad Candace Bushnell's writing is. Hmm. HMM. I salute you, if that's the case.

(Poor Hannah, though.)

Connie

I have never read Candace Bushnell, it's true!

I should have said, Liz Tuccillo. Hannah Sampson wrote a very positive review of her book How to Be Single. In any case, though, people will buy and read Candace Bushnell...at least, I think they will.

I could've said Lauren Weisberger. But chick lit specialist HS said her new one was horrible...

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