Publisher’s Weekly is reporting that LA Times Book Review editor Steve Wasserman may be on the way out, seeking job opportunities elsewhere. Let’s hope so.
Wasserman came to the LAT eight years
ago after a career at Times Books and NY publishing, bringing a flash of
intellectualism to the paper. But he has also reportedly had a number of
run-ins with supervisors who saw the section he ran as being overly
Not to mention exceedingly dull, irrelevant and out-of-date. But mostly dull.
It’s not unusual for the Book Review to finally get around to reviewing some major hardcover mysteries around the time they are about to come out in paperback (not that you’d call what mystery critic Eugen Weber writes "reviews," more like senseless ramblings).
I had lunch with Wasserman when I was president of the SoCal chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I came armed with months worth of local and national bestseller lists. I wanted to convince him that they should run more reviews of mysteries and thrillers because those were the books his readers were actually reading. But he told me that he felt the mission of the Book Review was to educate people about what they should be reading… which wasn’t mysteries and thrillers.
His smug superiority might have been easier to take if he didn’t spend most of our lunch drooling over the fact that Brian Grazer was at the next table.
Whether they review more mysteries or not, it sure would be nice if the LA Times Book Review was interesting and entertaining to read again…
UPDATE: My wise and witty brother Tod, who recently talked about shooting his life force out his ass, now offers his view of the Wasserman era. He, too, has reasons to be encouraged by the prospect for change at the Book Review.
3 thoughts on “Wasserman Remaindered?”
As annoying as the LA Times Book Review is, I’m afraid that with Wasserman gone, they’re going to do to it what they’ve done with the Sunday Opinion section.
Opinion used to be five pages of commentary, analysis, and opinion, along with one page of letters and editorials. But suddenly it’s been revamped. Now the first page is a full-page graphic or cartoon, half of one page is a collection of (three or four) editorial cartoons from around the country — with several paragrahps of explanation, for those who can’t quite grasp the thinking behind an editorial cartoon. Then the ominipresent (and usually amusing) Joel Stein has a column about, well, Joel Stein, and another columnist has a column about being a writer and a daddy.
And then just to shake things up, they have some outside writer criticizing the Times — which might be interesting, except that their first two were rightwing drone Hugh Hewitt complaining that the Times didn’t print RNC spin points as news, and blogosphere blowhard Mickey Kaus actually saying that the trouble with Times political writing was that they didn’t print enough gossip — because in gossip is eternal truth found. It’s not like the country is short on insights from Kaus and Hewitt — the one has a blog on Slate and is a regular guest on the Dennis Miller show, where all six people who care watch him on a regular basis, while Hewitt blathers on the radio 15 hours a week.
The LA Times Opinion section was never great. But it wasn’t bad. They seemed to make a real effort to pull in educated, informed writers from various sides of the political section. Now it’s almost indistinguishable from Comics Plus — except that Comics Plus! at least has Doonesbury.
I can’t wait to see the new, revamped Book Review. Maybe we’ll get personality profiles of Dan Brown. Or photo spreads of Tod’s favorite author, that “Prada girl.” Or maybe they’ll just devote half the section to gossiping about what’s going to happen next on “Desperate Housewives.”
I agree with you Bill regarding the Opinion section, which used to be one of my favorite parts of the Sunday paper. I think the Times is actually one of the few papers that increased their review coverage in recent years in their Sunday coverage (I could be wrong about that, but I seem to remember it being trumpeted a few years ago) but I don’t think they’ll go more People-magazine-y. I mean, they do that fluff stuff on authors periodically in the Calendar on Sundays and just in the general Calendar during the week already, so it doesn’t seem likely. I’m all for something less stodgy, though that doesn’t mean I need a profile on Dan Brown, but I do like the idea of a photo spread on that Prada girl…
This is indeed welcome news! The LA Times Book Review has been painfully irrelevant for years now. Maybe with a new direction they might consider reviewing some books that people actually read.