LITTLE BROWN MUSHROOM BLOG

An Open Letter to The New York Times Book Review

Posted in Flotsam by Alec Soth on November 8, 2010

I recently read a blog entry about the swarming masses at the New York Art Book Fair. But one thing nagged me about the post. “Although technically the fair promoted mostly art books,” says the writer, “there were also a multitude of stands that showcased philosophy books (at the M.I.T. table), activism books (at the Yes Men stand), books on the new media and digital revolution, and so on.”

True, but the art books weren’t just a technicality. These books are a thriving and vital art form. The writer then then goes on to use a ‘real’ author, the novelist Paul Auster, to justify the notion that print isn’t dead. Auster is quite eloquent on the subject:

“Human beings need stories, and we’re looking for them in all kinds of places. Whether its television, whether its comic books, or movies or radio plays, whatever form, people are hungry for stories. Think of your own childhood – how important the bedtime story was, how important these imaginary stories were for you.”

But this brings me back to art books. For me, art books are the ultimate extension of children’s literature. They are the creative weaving of text, design and image between the tactile covers of a book. No parent would tell you that the children’s book is in danger of extinction. Toddler’s want to gnaw on board books, not iPads. The same is true for artist’s books.

When I returned from the art book fair and opened up the New York Times Book Review yesterday, guess what I found: The Children’s Book Supplement. As big as the Book Review itself with 25 or so reviews, it seems to come out every few months. Additionally, of course, the Review does regular children’s books reviews.

But where are the art book reviews?

They simply don’t exist. Week after week I read the Book Review and hope to be proven wrong, but it doesn’t happen. Okay, there are comic reviews (Auster mentioned comics, after all). And of course there are the biographies of artists. Last week featured a biography of Grant Wood. But an actual artist’s book? The only hope of that is in the rare ‘Visuals’ column or the even rarer annual ‘Holiday Books’ section.

But even then artist’s books are nearly always absent.  Here is a list of the last books featured in the most recent Visuals column (on August 20th):

HE FIRST SIX BOOKS OF THE ELEMENTS OF EUCLID: In Which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols Are Used Instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners
THE FORM BOOK: Creating Forms for Printed and Online Use
STRANGE AND WONDERFUL: An Informal Visual History of Manuscript Books and Albums
PENGUIN 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the Good, the Bad . . .)
ART OF McSWEENEY’S
MAIRA KALMAN: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World)

And here’s the list of the books featured in the last Holiday Books Section (December 2nd, 2009)

TYPE: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, Volume I, 1628-1900
ART AND TEXT
THE BOOK OF CODES. Understanding the World of Hidden Messages: An Illustrated Guide to Signs, Symbols, Ciphers, and Secret Languages
MANGA KAMISHIBAI: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater
SKETCHY PAST: The Art of Peter de Sève

In short, the only true artist’s books being mentioned are coffee table books by New Yorker illustrators. (Please don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of Maira Kalman, but these are pretty slim pickings).

“If you harbor even a speck of doubt about the continuing viability of hold-in-your-hand-and-turn-the-pages print publications,” Holland Cotter wrote last year in the New York Times, “check out the New York Art Book Fair. You’ll find thousands of new books — smart, weird, engrossing, beautiful — that will never be Kindle-compatible. They’ll make you feel good.”

Is it too much to ask for New York Times Book Review to take at least one of these publications seriously?

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28 Responses

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  1. Todd Walker said, on November 9, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Amen. I’ve noticed the Book Review has been featuring an art book here and there, mostly by including a picture of the cover wedged in amongst unrelated reviews. What the…? And then there’s the year-end round up for the coffee table connoisseur. Other than that, nothin’.

  2. Sally said, on November 9, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Read another magazine?

  3. JS said, on November 9, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Right — why would you take them seriously if they don’t take us seriously?

  4. alec said, on November 9, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Sally – which magazine do you suggest I read? My point is that the book culture at large does not pay attention to artist’s books. The New York Times is just the most prominent example.

    JS – I do take the NYTimes Book review seriously. That is why I’m directing my frustration to them and not, say, People Magazine (who also do book reviews).

    As you might guess, my particular interest is photography. As a medium, photography was once greatly undervalued. But nowadays you can pick up the New York Times or the New Yorker and read plenty of reviews of photography exhibitions. So why not photography books?

    In the last ten years, there has been a major reevaluation of the importance of the photobook. Perhaps the most significant contribution in this field was Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook, A History. In the introduction to Volume I, Badger writes the following:

    “If the history of creative photography is considered as a whole, the publishing and dissemination of photographers’ work in book form has been more crucial and far-reaching than the showing of photographs in galleries.”

    I believe the time has come for the book culture at large to acknowledge the importance of the artist books generally and photography books specifically as worthy of critical attention.

  5. SO said, on November 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Here here. As a photographer who shoots with the photobook in mind as the destination of my images, I share Alec’s frustration with the lack of critical attention to photobooks. Photobooks are works of art in themselves, and should be considered as such.

  6. JS said, on November 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

    In my opinion the question is not whether the photobook is worthy of critical attention — that was answered long time ago — but whether mainstream media are worthy of critical attention. But then that question was answered, too.

  7. Erasmus said, on November 9, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Follow the money. I’m sure that art & photo book publishers don’t spend enough in NY Times advertising for the quid pro quo editorial content on their industry. It’s as simple as that. If Steidl, Aperture, and Nazraeli were to sell out to Random House or Harper Collins, you might see the coverage you are hoping for. They’d be able to use that for leverage to gain publicity, or threaten to withhold access to Stephen King or John Grisham or whomever.

  8. barbara pascal said, on November 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

    OWNED ARTWORKS/BOOKART FOR 22 YEARS AND I COULD HAVE MADE THE SAME COMMENTS 22 YEARS AGO. THE ARTIST BOOK WORLD HAS SEEN MANY EXCITING CHANGES SINCE THEN BUT STILL THAT ASPECT REMAINS THE SAME, NOT MUCH INTEREST FROM THE MEDIA.

  9. dave said, on November 9, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    All great projects (and products) start with someone noticing an absence and then that person or someone he has affected tries to fill the void. In this spirit why not create an online Photo Book Review publication? There are already a bunch of photo book sites, the creators of which might make for good contributors. Aperture started out as an idea by a few photographers who then took action. If they were around today I am sure they would have created Aperture as an online “publication”. The online photo review site I write for was started by a gallery owner who created an online listing of New York photography shows (updated every other week) and then asked for reviewers right on the site. From this process he created a stable of about 6 regular contributors, of course we count on him to crack the whip at times.

    I am sure I am not the only photographer (in this day and age) who is also passionate about photo books. This genre had received a quite bit of attention as Mr. Soth rightly points out. The problem is that there is no regular outlet for photo book reviews. The problem with the various photobook sites currently online is that they do not have a regular “publication” schedule and are limited to the opinions of the particular blogger. A site with half a dozen regular contributiors each with their own specific viewpoints and (photo) interests would find a siginificant following. Of course we would need someone with clout in the industry to sell the idea to photo book publishers and request review copies, etc. That’s not me.

    What’s that tag line used in the NY lottery – “All you need is a dollar and a dream”?

  10. Zarina said, on November 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Alec, we would love to review photography art book on Sojournposse. The problem is there are not many decent bookstores around central London anymore. They closed them down. We did wrote a piece about photography books for Father’s Day – only because we couldn’t find decent recommendations on photo books ourselves. We are a group of photographers writing blogs about culture production, because guess what – there’s no mainstream magazines that giving us the info we want. We are not sponsored and do this out of our own love and concern for the dying art of beautiful storytelling. So art photography book publishers, please feel free to to give us a shout at Sojournposse.com. We like to know. Art photo books only! Thanks.

  11. Charles Spring said, on November 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I think that there is a conventional distinction between what would be considered an art book and what is considered a piece of literature. Even children’s books are considered some form of literature. Are you suggesting we regard art books as we do other forms of literature? You have stated how literature and cinema are two examples of excellent and effective storytelling methodologies and that photography (and perhaps by proxy other graphic arts) cannot compete with these more expository, time-based storytelling ways. So photographers/artists must find and create their own unique ways to tell stories with their art books. If your point is that we (and the NY Times Book Review and maybe even People magazine) ought consider artists book projects as a form of literature, then I’m with you on that. Not only do we have to find our own ways to tell stories with our photobooks but we need get our culture to embrace why these projects are books in the first place.

    • Sally Canzoneri said, on November 10, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      Charles,

      If you think children’s books are just “some form of literature” then you need to read more of them. From picture books to Young Adult fiction, there is terrific literature and art being created in the field. And, if it is any consolation to you, most writers and illustrators of children’s books do not make much money from the sales of their books. (J.K. Rowling and a few others are very much the exception to the rule.) Generally, even highly respected illustrators and authors of children’s books are like other artists; they have “day jobs” or teach and/or lecture, or have spouses who can support them.

      As for telling stories in photobooks, you could learn a lot by spending an afternoon in a library looking at picture books. In a good picture book, the story is told through a subtle interplay of the images and the words, as well as the design of the book. These books are fun to read; but it is also interesting to analyze what makes them work — as storytelling and as art works.

      The people who create picture books are, like creators of artists books, photobooks, and graphic novels, concerned with the interaction of words and images to convey the meaning of the book. For whatever reasons, these groups of creators don’t interact much, which is too bad because they can all learn from one another.

  12. alec said, on November 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Well said, Charles. I’m not optimistic that this form of literature will ever make it to People, but I don’t think it is far fetched to make it to the Book Review.

    On October 1st Holland Carter wrote a nice review of Chris Verene’s latest exhibition, Family, at Postmasters Gallery: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/arts/01galleries-002.html

    In the review, Cotter mentions that the project has also been released as a handsome book by Twin Palms. This is great. Really great. But here’s the thing…I’ve been a huge fan of Verene’s for a decade and I’ve never seen a single exhibition. I know the work through his excellent and influential first book. This book has survived for a decade as a significant body of work and so will ‘Family.’ The exhibition at Postmasters is fleeting and only accessibly to a very small audience. Wouldn’t have been great if the Times would have reviewed the book and also mention that there is a handsome exhibition. In the end, the book is the more significant body of work.

  13. Christian said, on November 9, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    First and foremost, The NY Art Book Fair is fucking great. I look forward to the Fair weekend every year. Every year I get exhausted by all of the books, the information overload, the crowding, the stuffy rooms, the bathroom lines…and every year I walk away with bagfuls of amazing books and a notebook full of notes, names and numbers. It’s a great event, and a great weekend.

    As for The Book Review, here are a few thoughts…

    Most art books are published in editions of 1,000 or less, despite the limited additional cost of producing twice as many books. There are at most about 1,000 consistent art book buyers in the market. Most publishing money goes into production and distribution. Very little needs to be spent on promotion, because word of mouth and unsolicited reviews often sell as many books as one is going to sell. Many books will lose money, some will break even, and a few will realize financial returns. Most art books are passion projects, not money makers.

    Without any serious money in the market, is it any wonder that art books receive such little attention in the mainstream press? Most magazines and newspapers are too busy covering and appealing to the Great American Middle. The New York Times is often an exception, but its “Arts & Leisure” is too much leisure and not enough great art.

    As for printed art book reviews, what about Book Forum? Publications like Art Forum and Book Forum exist in part because the people who are seriously interested in art are willing to pay a little something extra to have access to it. Book Forum has its limits too, but it’s a hell of a lot better than The Book Review.

    And better yet, what about 5B4 and all of the online potential? We’re all online, and there’s a niche to be filled…But I suspect that any experienced book blogger would tell you that free review copies do not pay the bills…

  14. Stephen DeSantis said, on November 10, 2010 at 8:17 am

    The discipline of artists’ books is under reviewed and under appreciated. The NY Times like other publications, for better or worse, caters to the needs of it’s readers and advertisers. And for the past 16 years so has JAB – The Journal of Artist’s Books – http://journalofartistsbooks.org/index.php. Additionally, those interested in artists’ books should look at the extensive holding of The Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection http://digital-libraries.saic.edu/cdm4/index_jfabc.php?CISOROOT=/jfabc and The University of Iowa Library Special Collections among others. And for those who enjoyed the NY Book Arts Fair, check out the CODEX Foundation’s next annual Book Fair and symposium held in Berkley CA in February 2011 http://www.codexfoundation.org/index.html.

  15. Fleezit said, on November 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

    it was hard to read this post with the rampant misuse of apostrophes. No, print isn’t dead, but grammar is.

  16. colin said, on November 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Perhaps its due to the nature of art book reviews’ and the hedging of bet’s made by the reviewers of artbooks and especially photo-book’s. To write a good review you need to be able to write well, know the subject you are writing about and have an opinion worth making – perhap’s there just aren’t that many books worth writing about, perhaps the reviews that are made are too formulaic, or perhaps the writing about and reviewing art belongs in a different place than the review’s page.

  17. Kevin said, on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I hope my use of the comma is correct. When I think about art books, specifically photography) getting reviewed, I keep coming back to Photo-Eye and their end of the year picks. http://www.photoeye.com/magazine_admin/index.cfm/bestbooks.main Even the list of books provided by Photo-Eye doesn’t dig into why this or that person liked the book. I believe it could be done, but reviewing art books would be a difficult task to take on. There are many aspects of the art book to consider: content, layout, design, font, organization and idea. I am sure there are even more things to consider that I am not mentioning. To get good reviews, it would take someone who has been involved with publishing books and has a background in photography to make any judgement that was worth reading. I agree with Christian, 5B4 is a great online source for learning about new and old art books. Maybe someone else could answer this better than I could, but is reviewing art books easier or harder than reviewing a work of fiction or non-fiction? It seems like reviewing art books would take on many more dimensions than reviewing a novel. Alec you do some work for the NY Times, maybe you could get 5B4 talking to the book review folks and we could put this baby to bed.

  18. Valerie said, on November 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Well what about Artforum or ARTnews? Perhaps they should be the ones taking the lead.

  19. dylan said, on November 11, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    great post.
    i didnt attend the NYABF, but a friend did, told me about it, sent me to this blog, and im pretty sure that i would spend more than i should if i got anywhere near that schnapps.
    just want to hi-five the air here and say its damn awesome that this fair exists and has such a big draw. one day when i grow up and live in the city ill attend such events. until then im sticking to the babysitting lessons and UK lotto tix.

  20. Ellen Rennard said, on November 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I’ve reviewed a couple of photo books for Fraction Magazine, and one (as yet unpublished) for photo-eye (with more in progress). I agree with what Kevin said; in reviewing a photo book you have to look at a lot of variables: text, photography, layout, etc. You have to know something about photography and, more often than not, about writing, as well as layout and, of course, apostrophes. But folks with that kind of knowledge exist, as do people who love photo books. I don’t think there necessarily has to be a huge market for the books themselves in order to justify publishing reviews; after all, people often read reviews of books that they don’t buy. I’d like to think that reviews educate literate people about books they might not otherwise consider or notice. So, yes! I too would like to see more photo book reviews in the NYTimes and elsewhere.

  21. geoffrey james said, on November 16, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I trhink this is part of a larger problem. In my local (national) paper, the Globe and Mail, a retiring national art critic simply hasn’t been replaced. All kinds of columnists — experts on sex, divorce, office politics or whether you should wear a belt with your jeans — have been hired. We are reaching a situation where serious art is becoming a kind of samizdat in its own country. Photo books are just part of a bigger picture. The Times is perfunctory, but so is Artforum, which simply doesn’t do justice to art books, let alone the photographic book. Perhaps we should revel in our underground status.. I have never made a penny from books I have done, but they are like messages in a bottle, andover the years, all kinds of wonderful things come back, including print sales. I would suggest that first we put pressure on the specialized press. The Times is an easy target, but in fact I get a lot more information on what is going on in my medium from them than from most other places.

  22. Editor said, on November 17, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Here is a response to Mr. Soth question by a few culture producers in London ‘The ecosystem of art books’. We have enjoyed the discussions here. Thank you. http://www.sojournposse.com/?p=4058

  23. bob black said, on November 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Alec:

    the problem is manifold…and doesn’t simply rest with the Times Book Review (which looks like a sheave of onion skin compared with the Book Review I grew up glued to as a kid) but speaks of issues not only directly to the nature of reviewing books/artists books as to the nature of the intention of the Times Book Review (they’re review of poetry and books-in-translation is pretty paltry too) itself. Is it really important at this point in time whether or not the Times Book Review dedicates itself to reviewing photo/artists’ books? In truth Alec, I’m not sure. In fact, I’m not even sure the Book Review is relevant any more, and I say that as a writer and as person who was weaned on that damn section of the paper. I look at the Books section every day and read the Sunday Review section each Sunday, but in truth, this is more an act of sentimentality I think that an interest in what the reviewers have to say. I do look for ‘discoveries’ there but rarely rarely find them and cannot really remember that last book or author I discovered through the Book Review. I do, however, remember discovered books/writers through the Quarterly Conversation blog or University of Rochester’s great page Three Percent, or Book Forum, or from friends. In fact, I don’t even think the Times Book Review is nearly as good as the Post’s Book world of some of the papers in London. The books the Time’s tend to review seem, at this point, pretty predictable and it seems for many in the world, the Times is still the standard to which things are gauged and measured.

    I left that solipsistic belief a long time ago ;) LBM, in truth, is much better bench mark for me to follow and engage than the Times, truth be told.

    The problem Alec with worrying about the Times Book Review covering artists book is it is, in a sense, a question of comparing apples and oranges. The Review tends to be defined and dominated by writers: novelists, poets, essayists, editors, professors. Their understanding (as with most of the world) of what constitutes a ‘book’ let alone a ‘narrative’ is pretty narrow at best, grotesque, conservative and outdated at worst. For the Review, it seems as if they’re understanding of The Book is this: something written and clapped together with a binding. Photos/pictures are simply illustrational but serve as a tick (see they’re early experience with Sebald: the pictures were seen as ‘illustrations’ of the prose/narrative, not as narrative points themselves) only. I understand that and I don’;t expect writers to ‘get’ artistic narrative: different creatures. berger is one of the few writers who is not only able to write beautiful, thoughtful, insightful prose but also is able to produce and understand the nature of visual expression. Gunter Grass as well. But most book critics are stymied by the photobook/artists book as an object outside the gallery walls. In fact, don’t most critics, and MOST people (including, unfortunately, many many photographers) ‘understand’ the photobook as nothing more than the gathering of photographs, like a book of postcards? Most read photobooks that way. Shit, look at the way most people respond and write about the essays at Burn and Visura: same. As if an assembly of individual pics with a pretty linear and literal narrative. this is still the truth in photo-book reviews. Often the impression is of a series of photographs that make up a story about someone/someplace, something to put on the coffee table or show the kiddies, etc. Something rarely to be wrestled with with time.

    How does the time begin to deal with the artists book? Who do they get to review the ocean of books that are produced? Does it’s audience really care about the photobook beyond the idea of it as a ‘christmas’ book gift/birthday gift. Honestly, it is unlikely. I imagine most of the folk who read the times rarely buy photobooks (as compared with the number of novels/non-fiction books they buy) and for those that do, I’d wager that most of the books they buy are, as stated above, for the same reason NG is still a thriving magazine: the ‘pretty’ pictures. but you and i know that the photobook/artist book is richer, more complex, more fun, more exciting, more rewarding that just the pleasure of looking at a pretty face….it can be remarkably maddening as well: like life :)

    You know alec, I’ve rarely read a good (critical or otherwise) review of artist’s book, let alone an exhibition. There have been/are some great writers out there writing critically and inspiredly about photography, but a quick lick through most of the outlets out there leaves one both feeling bereft and thankful for the small outlets (mostly on-line) that bring both critical tools and passion-for-the-form. 5B4 is an obvious example of someone bringing passion and erudition (and beautiful drunkeness) to the fore of photo-book discussion (LBM too, but you don’t count ;)) ). But even with 5B4, there tends to be a predictability to the understanding of what a ‘photo-book’ is. Wasn’t the reading of Chris “Capitolio” pretty literal? Who writes well about photography these days, let alone the photobook? There are some photographers who do this and do it well and there are critics and other writers who do this well, but in truth, it is a rarity. Even Martin and Gerry’s books overlooked some important aspects of the ‘photo’book. I love (and have) both volumes and it’s so beautiful and thoughtful (and i can’t think of any other serious taxonomy of the photobook out there) that it automatically earned the oscar/palm d’or/etc, but photobooks are so slippery as to eluded even the most erudite and keen eyed. Why Richter’s book over Kiefer’s magnificent book? A major major oversight, as Kiefer’s books have had a much more profound effect on the book-as-object over the last 25 years and Richter’s seems much too literal an interpretation. Also, what about the Hiromix phenomenon? Her book(s) and the entire ‘blue’ series of books that she spawned in young, female japanese photographers not only anticipate the outpouring of Flicr and facebook but, in many ways, define much of the narrative stuff i see now. Was this their fault? No, it’s just that the extraordinary thing about the photobook/artist book is it is too large, too beautiful, too expansive to be pitted between those thin pages of newsprint….

    the did, long ago, review ‘wisconsin death trip’, which is how i first heard of the book, but I don’t expect the times to go anyway anymore. now, the question for me is: what to find and where to find good, thoughtful books about photogrpahy…

    i’ve tried Alec to write as much as possible in different places about photogrpahy (here, Burn, Lightstalker, Magnum Blog, etc) because I felt frustrated with both the way the photoworld/art world spoke/wrote about photogrpahy and the way that most blogs/photographers spoke of other’s photography. In fact, i think i;ve written more on photography in the last 3 years that I have on my own damn book, and that is a frustration, but one born of being frustrated with what was being written about photogrpahy, including what was written by other photographers….

    At this point, i think the antidote lay in making work…in making books and writing them as a means to deal with problems like the Times book Review….in storming the walls by work….

    i love that you’ve become Herzog and i hope that the Book Review listens….but, in truth, i[‘m not sure they’ll get it…partly their fault (i mean, do they even not the imprint LBM?) and they’re reliance and relationship with big publishing houses and partly not (are they really the ones we want reviewing artists books??, not me)….but as an outlet that still has a lot of cache, it would be nice to see a review of Lost Boy Mountain or a review of Versts or a review of, well, anything other than the new photos of the latest actor/supermodel to pic up a camera….

    And there is LBM, which i cherish as a place of both great and gorgeous humor and also great and wonderful information….and the cat in charge of this place ain’t half bad either ;))….

    the key I think Alec is not whether or not the times reviews photobooks anymore (you know, i only ever remember 1 review of a manga, ever, though they have reviewed some graphic novels), ’cause I actually don’;t care any more about them. I get depressed every christmas when i read they’re year end review of books and see what they posit as ‘must buy’ photobooks/table books, so who needs that. What will make me depressed if all the outlets for the books get’s thumb-dyked. It would be great if the Times, say quarterly hired (i’m willing to do it Times) someone with passion and knowledge and acumen to write about photobooks being pulished, artists books being made, but i’m not holding my breath….and i’m not losing sleep….

    the day, however, that LBM closes shop, however, will be a day I storm that small outfit in MN and kick some major ass ‘ cause we need all of you to keep it coming….

    and i have another idea….since you’re already an Opinionator, can you leverage that weight to get Lester to review….:))))

    until them, i’ll keep writing at burn and hopefully, finish my own books before the year runs out….

    big hugs from us here in balmy T-dot :))

    bob

  24. Damian Zimmermann said, on January 5, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Thanks a lot, Alec, that a great and true post and open letter. Unfortunately we got the same problem in germany, too. Every three month I’m writing a two-sites-photobook-reviews for a local newspaper – and it’s still not possible to write the word “photobook” on the head of the site. After two years they still write “Bildband” what means so much like “coffee-table book” – they don’t understand the difference.

    Best regards
    Damian

  25. la martin said, on January 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Excellent, Alec — every year I contemplate writing to the NY Book Review with this kind of op ed and I’m so pleased you have taken the proverbial bull by the horn. This ALWAYS drives me crazy. Every year, we’re inundated with “The Best of American (R)” series on everything and anything under the sun — Best of … Short Stores, Essays, Non-required Reading, Science Writing, Mystery Stories — for god’s sake: even POETRY has a collection. (See: http://tinyurl.com/34×4569) But apparently, the audience who pays attention to and BUYS writing related to the arts is not a big enough market share to deign with a collection … Thank you for reminding me to put this on the top of my things to ponder list …

  26. jon said, on January 6, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Alec
    Isn’t the premise for a review that which your reader may be able to see and buy themselves so that the review – or preview- is useful as an opinion. In many cases I have seen recently you yourself have been actively engaged in promoting the narrowing of availability of many fine book projects. Tiny limited edition print runs, intentional artificial petitioning of scarcity etc in order to promote the idea of “only a few can have this”.
    In fact by the very standards you have helped create over the years you have contributed to the notion of elitist taste in the production of photography and photo books in order to establish a hierarchy of authors and objects.
    Reading the post above in the context of the comments make me feel that you at once crave a world of art that singles out scarcity as being especially good yet also demands a mass appreciation or recognition of this talent at te same time. Your own LBM thrives on the power it receives by you being able to say…”received x today from so and so, now you have heard about it but you won’t be able to get a copy too, therefore I must be something special.”
    Perhaps if instead you were really concerned with making public the ways that the public can also buy a book without having to subscribe to the notion of elitist oneupmanship then you displeasure at the NYT and others would be consistent.
    And yes you do defer once again to seeking universal celebration for Art whilst failing to mention the great book reviewers, book sites and open arenas out there that in and if themselves are probably universally more accessible and seen than the boring old NYT review of anything.

  27. jon said, on January 6, 2011 at 3:47 am

    My grammar is undone by my thumb’s ability to glide accurately over this tiny keypad. Sorry for that. Also petitioning above (end of first para) s/b editioning.


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