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Is This the End of the Stand-Alone Book Review?

Each Sunday, I commit a crime in the name of personal literacy: I steal the New York Times Sunday Book Review from Starbucks. I’m not even discreet about it. I order my drink and whatever mound of trans-fat appeals to … Read More

By / July 3, 2007

Each Sunday, I commit a crime in the name of personal literacy: I steal the New York Times Sunday Book Review from Starbucks. I’m not even discreet about it. I order my drink and whatever mound of trans-fat appeals to me from the pastry section and then I wander over to the newspaper stand and yank apart the New York Times until I find the Book Review. I then read the first couple of reviews in full view of the asexual – yet provocatively pierced – barista while I wait for the he/she to make my drink. No one says a word to me – not the employees of Starbucks, who’ve seen me do this every Sunday for the last six years nor my fellow patrons, many of whom I see so frequently in service of this crime that we now nod to each other like co-workers – because, clearly, no one cares about the book reviews. Now, if I filched the Sunday sports page, I can only imagine an Ox-Bow Incident ending.

If the workers and patrons of a typical suburban Starbucks don’t sound like a scientifically sound focus group, they do at least comprise a metaphorical one as it relates to the dwindling space and attention given to book reviews nationwide. Their tacit approval of my crime is emblematic of just how little readers in general care about what was once a staple of the Sunday paper and, for authors, the best way for them to get news of their latest work before the most likely buying audience.

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