Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bye Bye Book World

Sarah Weinman's take on the demise of Book World as a special section of the Washington Post says it all. I'd just like to add a personal note.

Book World was my first date as a book reviewer. Byron Dobell, the king of editors, who ran the section from the offices of the New York Herald Tribune (it also appeared in the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune), asked in the late 1960s if I'd like to be his mystery reviewer. I was of course delighted, although my mother said when I told her, "Mystery reviewer? Why can't you use your real name?"

It was in many ways the best job I ever had. Not only was the legendary Bleeck's bar of Breslin fame just downstairs, but I got to do a regular crime column, and also had the chance to contribute (for real money) other pieces. Interviewing Kingsley Amis on his reading habits, I was surprised by his admonition: "Never read fiction before noon."

So, bye bye Book World -- which I'll continue to read online. And Byron, now a very successful painter, thanks for the memories.


Tim said...

It's a melancholy time for both book reviewers, many of whom will be taking a hit to the wallet at a particularly bad moment, and for writers whose work can't get the notice it needs and, in some cases, might even deserve. But I have to say that newspapers as a whole have been no more forward-looking than Detroit. Like Detroit, they saw new technologies as threats rather than opportunities, but that didn't slow the new technologies any.

On a personal note, I'm leaving the country on the 19th of this month to go to Asia and write the fourth Poke book. Could you e-mail me a snail mail address so I can make sure the people at Morrow get you an ARC of the third? It's called BREATHING WATER, and the ARCs will be available late in March.

Thanks in advance.


Clea Simon said...

What is happening to newspapers is horrible, and I know Sarah's column will be missed (and not just by us mystery folks).