Saturday, April 16, 2005

Whereabouts ...

I took a week off, I told myself, so I could hunker down and do some blogging on a regular basis. As it happened, I spent most of my time getting my South Philly patio garden in shape. Hard to believe such a tiny space could require so much work. The tulip in the photo has been the star of the garden so far.
I also spent a good deal of time thinking about what I wanted to concentrate on in this blog and figured I'd go with what people who have read it have said they liked best: shop talk. And I figured I'd resume blogging by giving some idea of the role I see for myself as a book review editor.
I certainly don't view myself as some Grand Poohbah of criticism. First of all, though reviewing has a critical component, there are differences between reviewing and criticism. When you write a critical essay you can pretty much assume that your readers are familiar with the work you're writing about. You can assume the opposite when you're writing a review.
The overwhelming factor is the overwhelming number of books and the underwhelming amount of space in which to review them. I prefer to review books that aren't being reviewed everywhere else. I also like to review books by lesser-known publishers, off-beat authors, and the like. And I don't like to waste space with negative reviews. Sometimes, they're unavoidable. Some books are news, and I work for a newspaper. If the newsworthy books turns out to be bad, then space has to be devoted to saying so.
But I'm really an advocate for reading. For me, book reviewing has more to do with bringing to people's attention something you've found worthwhile and telling them why. I've written some negative reviews and will certainly write some more. But on the whole I prefer to pass on the thumbs up/thumbs down business.


  1. Dear Frank:

    I applaude your decision to reach beyond the grasp of the corporate decision makers to embrace the undermined and the neglected all the way to South Street. And I highly appreciate your in depth, bearing your soul as a newspaper writer, analysis of what it's like to be in your shoes. I wouldn't want it, honestly. Because I can only say good things about other peoples' creative endeavors, bar none. Yet, you come upon trash and garbage. But of what variety? Poorly spelled. Poorly edited. Poorly thought out and expressed. And then absolutely dumb stuff.
    Your analysis of what you do is somewhat breathtaking, because I feel that I have in a way been a source for this particular angst.
    As I've indicated previously, this forum is constrictive to the nth degree. Little boxes to write in, etc.
    Yes, be an advocate for reading. I'm sending you two books now. Read, dude, and please, let's be friends and read each other.

    I love what you're doing here. Quite serendipitous that we met. I don't remember quite how I got your drift . . . .


  2. I think, Tono, that we have already entered a more democratic era with regard to reading and publishing. Common sense tells you that it just can't be that the only books worth reading are the ones major commercial publishers choose to bet their money on. It's worth remembering that if in, say, 1875, you had got together all the leading literary scholars and critics in the US and asked them to name the two most important poets writing in America at the time, none would have picked Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson.