Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The New York Review of Books III

In my quest to find a replacement for the NYRB, I have taken a brief survey of what is available.  I'm sorry to report that there isn't much there unless I'm willing to make enormous compromises.  The Chronicle of Higher Education isn't bad, but it is directed specifically at academics, and I am not one.  I used to subscribe to the Wilson Quarterly but found it a little too conventional for my tastes.  The London Review of Books isn't bad, but it is too literary for me, and basically I've had it with literary writers.  I presently subscribe to The Times Literary Supplement, which, for me, is better than nothing, but obviously it emphasizes things literary. I have tried some online sites with mixed results. The New Inquiry seemed like a children's website when I first looked at it. Another site, Berfrois, is actually quite good, but it sort of overlaps with the London Review of Books in its outlook, though it has somewhat less of a literary emphasis. My main problem with it is that it has very few comments, which gives it kind of a dead feeling.

The dilemma seems to be that what is available for reasonably intelligent people who like to read interesting articles and discuss them online is quite limited.  The NYRB is a sinking ship of octogenarians who have been singing the same song for 50 years.  They will all be dying soon, so they don't care about anything complicated like innovation, new ideas, reader expectations, or anything like that.  Most of their peers are already dead.

If the NYRB is literary, most of its competitors are even more literary.  People who get involved with literary projects seem to fall into two categories: the seasoned experts who got their foot in the door several decades ago and are fairly established, and the idealistic neophytes who have fallen prey to them. The experts often teach in writing programs and on college faculties, or they line up gigs like the regular writers at the NYRB and churn out what in effect are newspaper columns.  Under this model, the writing becomes repetitive and inconsequential.  The neophytes are even more problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, they have bought into an idea that is essentially false. The majority of them will never have successful careers as writers or teachers, and they are doomed to stay at the bottom of the pyramid of the Ponzi scheme. Secondly, being over-educated and coming primarily from upper-middle-class backgrounds, they don't know anything interesting.  In the most general terms, the American literary world consists of vacuous people who got good scores on the verbal section of the SAT.

Believe it or not, I am quite open minded and would appreciate any compelling arguments that might cure me of what you may perceive to be my jadedness.


  1. Hello Paul, I do not have a compelling argument to cure you of your jadedness but I think I recognize some of your feelings. At the risk of being trite you can probably chalk a lot up to being old(er), smart and well read aka been there, done that, there's nothing new.

  2. Thank you for the comment - anything is appreciated. Actually, I don't consider myself jaded. I think at heart I'm just not American, which seems to require one to be positive at all times. 3 Quarks Daily and The Chronicle of Higher Education are both good.

  3. I get 3 Quarks Daily daily, ha and just came across this today…maybe you have already ruled out but here you go http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/stevereads/
    Found in 1 of todays articles - Translating the Decameron.


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