Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Signs of life in the Review at last

I'm actually not the biggest fan of most of the changes made of late over at the New York Times Book Review by its new editor, Sam Tanenhaus. To be fair, I must admit that many of the changes are superficial, or the logical extension of a trend already in evidence. For example, I dislike the new "chronicle" feature, where four to six title, and sometimes more, are treated in less than 1200 words, but it's really just a repackaging of the "In Brief" feature of the old Review.

Every once in a while, though, even the new Review gets something right. Case in point: Jonathan Franzen's lengthy (and wonderful) review of Alice Monroe's new collection, Runaway. The printed version runs four pages, including the cover, and is both enlightening, and a pleasure to read. (I am a big fan of Franzen's essays and commentary, and would highly recommend his collection How To Be Alone to anyone who doesn't own it. As a critic, Franzen has steered me to Paula Fox's Desperate Characters and Adam Haslett's You Are Not a Stranger Here, both challenging, engrossing masterworks.)

Long live the lengthy, in-depth, well-considered, joy-to-read fiction review!

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