In today’s Observer, Charles McGrath explains his decision to step down as The New York Times Book Review editor. He says it’s important to “stay fresh” and that his skin is too thin for the job.
Adam Moss, The Timesâ€™ “culture czar,” says he will name McGrath’s replacement “probably in a couple of months.” As of Monday, he said:
The Times has had “absolutely noâ€”zeroâ€”conversations with anyone about the job,” Mr. Moss said. “We are just beginning the search now.”
In the article, Rachel Donadio paints the current debate about book reviewing as “strangely polarized”:
On one end of the spectrum are the likes of the militantly mild Believer editor Heidi Julavits, issuing rambling screeds against “snarky” book critics. On the other are bomb-throwers like the novelist Dale Peck, who routinely goes after big quarry in his long reviews in The New Republic, and whose supposed acts of critical derring-do got him an anthropological profile in The New York Times Magazine last month, as if an ambitious, bloodthirsty critic were some kind of special case that demanded to be analyzed.
Some see these extremes, and the attention theyâ€™re getting, as reactions to the wishy-washy state of the Book Review. “If The New York Timesâ€™ critics were a little bit mouthier and brassier, Peckâ€™s bad boy personaâ€”as it wereâ€”would not quite have felt like such an emancipation,” said David Kipen, the book critic of the San Francisco Chronicle. In Mr. Kipenâ€™s assessment, The Times Book Review features “too many New Yorkers reviewing too many other New Yorkers and not wanting to have drinks thrown in their face” at the next book party.