Still crazy after all these years

July 12, 2013 · 0 comments

Well, perhaps not crazy. Let’s just say “annoyed?”

I was reading this piece about “Why I’m Giving Up the NYTimes Book Review Habit,” by Matthew Gasda on the IndieReader website when I came across this passage:

This means that, for instance, when a completely unoriginal, flat book gets pushed by its publisher as the next great American novel, the initial wave of reviews just picks up on the pre-written narrative about the narrative and praises the new book for being pleasantly reminiscent of older, better books. To wit:

… it zooms immediately into the pantheon of classics, alongside “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud and “The Southpaw” by Mark Harris — but it’s also a magical, melancholy story about friendship and coming of age that marks the debut of an immensely talented writer.

Although Gasda does not mention this book by name, I knew — just knew — that he had to be referring to The Art of Fielding (although why he just didn’t come out and reveal that info, I don’t know; his essay is not solely about this title). It didn’t take long to confirm my suspicions: the quote comes from Michiro Kakutani’s column, published Sept. 5, 2011, one of two (!) pieces on TAOF by the Times.  The other, by Gregroy Cowles, appeared  four days later.

I’m sorry, and I know that my 501 Baseball Books is probably not the type to get a Times review, but with all the books out there, for one project to get two featured reviews seems an embarrassment of riches, especially if they are both positive (I would hope the Times would not waste the space on two negative reviews; that would just be mean).

Here’s the comment I left at the IndieReader site FYI, just in case they decide not to run it:

As a first-time author who would LOVE to see his book reviewed in the Times, I take extra umbrage when the newspaper runs two reviews of the same work, as it did for The Art of Fielding, to which Gasda refers above (“… it zooms immediately into the pantheon of classics, alongside “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud and “The Southpaw” by Mark Harris”) without actually mentioning the title.

At the risk of sounding “sour grapesy,” my mind harkens back to the days of radio payola, when records labels influenced radio stations to give their songs extra play, resulting in extra sales. I’m sure that’s not the case with publishers and publicists pushing their books and authors (no lawsuits, please), but I’d be curious to see the research on what a listing on the Times’ best-seller list means in terms of sales.

Be sociable, share the Bookshelf!

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