Obligations of book reviewers.

Mark Athitakis sums it up:

Earlier this week the FTC released new guidelines on how bloggers must disclose their relationships with commercial entities. I haven’t spent much time thinking about this—unlike smart people who have—mainly because I suspect any battle between the gummint and bloggers will attack women and children first. Relatively speaking, me and my modest stack of advance reader’s copies aren’t worth anybody’s attention and trouble. I’ve always considered ARCs as a tool to do my job, not some great prize; I receive them, but, like editors at newspaper book reviews, I feel no particular obligation to review them, acknowledge their existence, or announce their provenance if I do get around to mentioning them.

I received a review copy – the finished book, not an ARC – the other day that the publisher paid over $20 to have shipped to me. I feel no obligation whatsoever to name it, or to attempt to review it (as it’s likely way over my head, and I would not do the book the justice it may well deserve) despite the outlandish expense incurred to send it to me. It’s one of many, and there are only so many hours in the day. It will likely get passed on to a reviewer at Identity Theory.

You know Mark is on the straight and narrow, because if he was making any profit whatsoever from ARCs, he wouldn’t be drinking Folgers. No way


Weekend reading.

  • Here’s a new short story by David Mitchell.
  • David Ulin has an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times about difficulty with focusing on reading, given the hypnotic internet.  There’s been a lot of enthusiastic assent about this article … on the internet.
  • Michael Pollan thinks you might enjoy putting down the Hamburger Helper and doing some cooking.
  • Two new reviews at Identity Theory this week: the excellent Of Song and Water by Joseph Coulson, and Hurry Down Sunshine (also quite good) by Michael Greenberg.

We’ve done four already but now we’re steady.

“Either you see this as a hyper-intellectual exercise in promoting the lexicon of oenology as a valid critical system while simultaneously subverting it and subjecting it to ridicule–or you think it is just some dudes who want to drink some really good wine and listen to Led Zeppelin. No matter what, it is still going be the best salon since Dorothy Parker made that crack about horticulture. I imagine the discussion is going to get plenty heated by the time we spin ‘Kashmir.’ And everyone who comes to the tasting is leaving with a book.”



“Manual of Detection” reading in Portsmouth.

Via FoC Michele at Reading is Breathing comes this welcome news:

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 – 7:00pm

RiverRun Bookstore and The Red Door present Jedediah Berry reading from The Manual of Detection

Join RiverRun at The Red Door (107 State Street in Portsmouth) for our new literary series featuring some of today’s best contemporary writers. Enjoy a drink at the martini bar while listening to an imaginative novelist read from his debut novel.

“Berry’s ambitious debut reverberates with echoes of Kafka and Paul Auster….This cerebral novel, with its sly winks at traditional whodunits and inspired portrait of the bureaucratic and paranoid Agency, will appeal to mystery readers and non-genre fans alike.”

─ Publishers Weekly

“In his first novel, Berry has created a wonderful and fantastic world, a vintage mystery seen through a hall of fun-house mirrors….”

─Kirkus Reviews

A night out, with other grown-ups, a frosty beverage and a reading: now that’s a wonderful and fantastic Kafkaesque idea.

Authors on the election.

George Saunders, Junot Diaz, Amy Tan and others weigh in on next week’s election.

If literary culture can be said to include the stories people tell one another about America, this blurring of private and public narratives – and the hullaballoo over this election – is not a new thing. “It is difficult to describe the place political concerns occupy in the life of an American,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1840. “To have a hand in the government of society, and to talk about it, is the most important business, and so to speak, the only pleasure an American knows.”

Well, that and sweet, delicious pudding.  (With apologies to Carolyn, to whom I promise I am not a Kozy Shack shill.)

In the article, Diaz takes the Champion viewpoint about our prospects-at-best:

“The horrific violence of our current economic system, which kills more people daily than our wars,” says Díaz, who won a Pulitzer for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, “will not change one jot under an Obama administration. Right now these elections are all about who plays the music at the party. Doesn’t change the fact that there’s a massacre going on. No US election is going to change that. And any writer worth a damn might be in the party but what he’s really listening to, bearing witness to, in small ways, in elliptical ways or flat-out head on, is the violence and terror and inhumanity that reign beyond the party’s walls.”

If not an election, then what?  I don’t want to get all starry-eyed about the chances of sweeping reform and change should Obama win, but at the same time, I don’t want to bury my head in the sands of pessimism, because if enough people do that, then nothing will change.  We all need to change our thinking about politics, about responsibility, about citizenship.  Wendell Berry:

Minick: I was re-reading “A Native Hill,” and this one sentence struck me. You’re talking about coming back, and you write, “Here, now that I’m both native and citizen, there’s no immunity to what is wrong.” The “citizen” part jumped out at me on this reading. What is the connection between “native” and “citizen”?

Berry: That essay “A Native Hill” is an early one, written a long time ago, partly in the exhilaration of rediscovering my own part of the world, of seeing it with the change of vision that came with the feeling that I was going to live here, that I was here for life. It was an exhilaration sobered by the understanding that we had made historical blunders here that would have to be corrected. To live here responsibly meant that you had to accept responsibility for those blunders and errors and find, if you could, suitable remedies and corrections. So the word “citizen” occurs in that sentence because of its implication of responsibility. You can be a native without consciously assuming responsibility. A citizen consciously assumes responsibilities that belong to the place, responding to the problems of the place.

This process doesn’t end on Tuesday.  If we want change, Tuesday is only the beginning.  Again, Mr. Berry:

OR A NATION TO BE, in the truest sense, patriotic, its citizens must love their land with a knowing, intelligent, sustaining, and protective love. They must not, for any price, destroy its health, its beauty, or its productivity. And they must not allow their patriotism to be degraded to a mere loyalty to symbols or any present set of officials.