As we approached 2000, with newspapers shrinking and the Internet swelling, reports on the state of book reviewing become markedly bleak. I would call these pieces Manifestos, if they weren’t so despondent in tone. In "The Amazing Disappearing Book Review Section," a 2001 piece for Salon, Kevin Berger examined the San Francisco Chronicle’s decision to do away with its pullout, 12-page book section (while also moving book reviews to the back of its Sunday entertainment section), finding it illustrative of a wider move to replace book criticism with other forms of pop culture observation. A dour mood is struck at the beginning of the piece when one of the paper's editors, leading Berger to the department, admits, "I’ve actually never been down there." The department's out-of-sight, out-of-mind location mirrored its exile to the newspaper’s back pages: "A sign on a far wall said ‘Book Review,’ followed by an arrow." At this millennial mark, entering the realm of book reviewing had become akin to placing yourself in a horror film.
Happily, no one booed me off the stage the other night at the Library when I admitted to having wasted nearly half-a-century writing book reviews.