(Or, how I spent my Sunday night on a virtual tour of the New York Times Book Review)
I spent some time Sunday night watching a Book TV piece on the New York Times Book Review. The whole program is quite fascinating if you have an hour. But here is my simplified takeaway on what Pamela Paul—the editor of the Review—said about what makes a good review:
1. Good writing!
2. A clear position: you like the book or you don’t.
3. No plot spoilers.
4. No high-handed officiousness.
And of course the primary qualification for anyone who wants to review books:
Be a reader.
Okay, that all looses something in the translation. The whole video is worth watching just to hear Parul Sehgal’s voice, which is fabulous. (Really, she works in print?) And if you’re an author with a new novel coming out (like a certain writer of this post) there is the great fun of watching for your book. (The good news: mine wasn’t in Ms. Sehgal’s August reject pile, as far as I could see. The bad: it wasn’t anywhere else.)
A few things I was particularly pleased to hear Ms. Paul say:
- They think about gender when they are deciding what to review. Also nationality and race.
- She had a “nasty” review of one of her books in the Times, so she knows how that feels.
- Ms. Paul was a history major in college. (History majors rock!)
- She is not afraid of the f word. (Not the four-letter one.)
Seriously, what are you still doing here? Go watch the video. – Meg