The Death of the Book Review?

Posts are fly­ing around the lit­er­ary blo­gos­phere lament­ing the Death of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism. Now, by my count this par­tic­u­lar demise has been pre­dict­ed at least three times in the past few decades, so why wor­ry now? The short answer is that more books are pub­lished annu­al­ly than ever, and now there are few­er book review­ers. The LA Times recent­ly fold­ed its free­stand­ing book review into the rest of the week­end paper and news­pa­per staffs around the coun­try are trim­ming review posi­tions in favor of syn­di­cat­ed wire ser­vice reviews.

Michael Con­nel­ly, a crime fic­tion writer, pub­lished an op-ed in the LA Times protest­ing the move and he paints a dire pic­ture of our cul­tur­al future:

The truth is that the book and news­pa­per busi­ness­es share the same
dread­ful fear: that peo­ple will stop read­ing. And the fear may be
well-found­ed. Across the coun­try, news­pa­per cir­cu­la­tions are down — and
this is clear­ly part of the rea­son for the cuts to book sec­tions. At
the same time, the book busi­ness increas­ing­ly relies on an aging
cus­tomer base that may not be refu­el­ing itself with enough new read­ers.

Should we blame cash-strapped news­pa­per com­pa­nies or a cul­ture that’s shift­ing away from tra­di­tion­al media alto­geth­er? Ladies and gen­tle­men, start your iPods–to lend rea­soned analy­sis, we now turn to Steven Col­bert, who inter­viewed Salman Rushdie on this sub­ject ear­li­er this week (click below or watch the full show on iTunes):

25 Blogs for Movie Buffs

Below, you’ll find a list of 25 fine cinema/film blogs, all for the cin­e­ma buff.

This list fig­ures into a larg­er col­lec­tion of Cul­ture Blogs that we’re putting togeth­er over time. It’s a work in progress, so watch it grow. If you feel that we’re miss­ing some extra­or­di­nary blogs, please feel free to email us and let us know.

  • Alter­na­tive Film Guide: A nice resource for any­one who wants to go beyond main­stream movies.
  • Cahiers du ciné­ma: This is not exact­ly a blog. Rather it’s the site for the very influ­en­tial French film mag­a­zine found­ed in 1951. If you read French, def­i­nite­ly give it a look.
  • Cinecultist: This cin­e­ma blog comes straight to you from the East Vil­lage in NYC, and it’s put togeth­er main­ly by Karen Wil­son, a free­lance writer and edi­tor with a film back­ground.
  • Cin­e­ma Min­i­ma: A news blog for movie mak­ers that digests infor­ma­tion about movie mak­ing, act­ing, dis­tri­b­u­tion, and film fes­ti­vals.
  • Cin­e­ma Strikes Back: The site cov­ers movies world­wide with news, reviews, inter­views and film fes­ti­val reports. It also offers advanced looks at upcom­ing movies and DVDs. Has a par­tic­u­lar focus on genre, cult and for­eign films.
  • Cin­e­marati: Cre­at­ed by the The Web Alliance for Film Com­men­tary, this blog brings togeth­er online film crit­ics for seri­ous, and seri­ous­ly fun, dis­cus­sion about film, and also coun­ters the notion that “any­one with a modem can be a crit­ic.”
  • Cin­e­mat­i­cal: Part of the Weblogs, Inc. net­work, Cin­e­mat­i­cal keeps tabs on what’s new in film.
  • Clip Joint: Put out by the Guardian, this blog presents a roundup of top cin­e­ma-relat­ed clips on the inter­net.
  • Cyn­thia Rock­well’s Wait­ing Room: A site that you’ll find list­ed on many A‑list film blogs.
  • Dave When not blog­ging, Dave writes “Critic’s Choice: New DVDs,” a
    col­umn that appears in The New York Times and is archived here.
  • Dead­line Hol­ly­wood Dai­ly: Pub­lished by LA Week­ly, this blog is writ­ten by jour­nal­ist Nik­ki Finke, who writes about the busi­ness, pol­i­tics and cul­ture of the info­tain­ment indus­try.
  • Drift­ing: David Low­ery dis­cours­es here on film, at least most of the time.
  • Film Expe­ri­ence Blog: What you get here are cin­e­mat­ic mus­ings from Nathaniel R with fre­quent dips into pop cul­ture mis­cel­la­nia.
  • Flick­head: Keep­ing it reel!
  • Green Cine Dai­ly: GreenCine Dai­ly is pri­mar­i­ly writ­ten by GC Edi­tor David Hud­son. A nice com­pre­hen­sive blog.
  • Hell on Frisco Bay: The jour­nal of a cinephile haunt­ing the remain­ing movie hous­es of the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area.
  • If Char­lie Park­er Was a Gun­slinger: Cul­tur­al obser­va­tions by Tom Sut­pen, Stephen Cooke and Richard Gib­son.
  • Like Anna Kari­na’s Sweater: A film and cul­ture blog with a focus on non-main­stream top­ics, writ­ten by a pro­fes­sion­al screen­writer and a part-time mis­an­thrope.
  • Lost in Neg­a­tive Space:  For provoca­tive film crit­i­cism with an under­dog bite. Writ­ten by Peter Gelderblom.
  • Mas­ters of Cin­e­ma: Five blog­gers from three dif­fer­ent
    coun­tries bring per­ti­nent infor­ma­tion togeth­er in one place
    for afi­ciona­dos of World Cin­e­ma.
  • Movie City Indie: Inde­pen­dent movies, inde­pen­dent think­ing by Ray Pride.
  • Not Com­ing to a The­ater Near You: A site with a bias towards old­er, often unpop­u­lar, and some­times unknown films that mer­it a sec­ond look.
  • Notes from the Under­dog: On writ­ing, screen­writ­ing, films, music, and the polit­i­cal land­scape.
  • Scan­ners: A film blog writ­ten by Jim Emer­son, a Seat­tle-based writer and film crit­ic, who is also the found­ing edi­tor-in-chief of
  • Ser­gio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule: Hard to sum­ma­rize this one (as the title kind of demon­strates). Bet­ter just to see it instead.

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George Tenet’s Defense

Tenet_3We’re now six years past 9/11, and four years past the mis­sion being com­plete in Iraq (wink, wink). But the parade of books by ex-gov­ern­ment deci­sion-mak­ers con­tin­ues. First we had Richard Clarke’s Against All Ene­mies and The Price of Loy­al­ty writ­ten almost indi­rect­ly by for­mer Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Paul O’Neill. Now we get a new one, At the Cen­ter of the Storm, by George Tenet, the for­mer Direc­tor of the CIA.Though there is now a pal­pa­ble sense of fatigue in Amer­i­ca (even the polit­i­cal right has had it with our Iraq adven­ture), we appar­ent­ly still have enough ener­gy to make a best­seller out of anoth­er polit­i­cal tell-all book. Yes, we still want to read anoth­er recita­tion of well-known facts — that Tenet warned Con­di in 2001 about an immi­nent al-Qae­da threat but our Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor did lit­tle with that infor­ma­tion, or that the Bush cir­cle men­tal­ly signed off on invad­ing Iraq as soon as 9/12. Yes, we appar­ent­ly also want to hear Tenet exlain for the fourth or fifth time exact­ly what he meant in say­ing Iraq’s WMDs were “a slam dunk case.” (In an oth­er­wise com­plete­ly unin­ter­est­ing book review, Bob Wood­ward has a cou­ple worth­while com­ments on this bit.) And we strange­ly care enough to read through anoth­er mea cul­pa that isn’t real­ly a mea cul­pa after­all. (George Pack­er makes good points on this score in The New York­er.)If you want to com­mit time to read­ing this book, God bless you and feel free to buy it here. But if you would rather cut to the chase, you can lis­ten to Tenet’s recent inter­view on Fresh Air (iTunes), or alter­na­tive­ly watch his recent 60 Min­utes piece below. (The tele­vi­sion inter­view is divid­ed into four chunks. Here are the links to Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)

PS One of our read­ers rec­om­mends Ter­ror Time­line, a book by Paul Thom­spon that gives you a year by year, day by day, minute by minute chron­i­cle of the road to 9/11.

The video is no longer avail­able on youtube, but it can be viewed here at the CBS web­site.

The Great God Debate

On Mon­day night faith and athe­ism got a ver­bal work­out. Famous­ly vit­ri­olic colum­nist Christo­pher Hitchens (a for­mer lib­er­al best-known in recent years for his staunch sup­port of the war in Iraq) faced off against Rev­erend Al Sharp­ton in a dis­cus­sion mod­er­at­ed by Slate edi­tor Jacob Weis­berg. Hitchens is a vehe­ment non-believ­er and the new author of God is not Great (also avail­able on iTunes). Suf­fice to say that the debate between him and Sharp­ton was col­or­ful. That should come as no surprise–what makes it worth lis­ten­ing to is that it was also rea­soned and intel­li­gent.

You can read a tran­script or lis­ten to the debate (RealAu­dio only), which was held at the New York Pub­lic Library.

The two celebri­ty pun­dits saved their best moment for last:

“I’d encour­age peo­ple to buy the book,” Mr. Sharp­ton said. “I don’t
believe what it says, but it’s well writ­ten. He’s a very elo­quent and
well-versed per­son.”

“That’s extreme­ly hand­some of you,” Mr. Hitchens replied.

As an aside, Hitchens recent­ly appeared on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. In the inter­view above, you can get a lit­tle more insight into Hitchens’ think­ing.

20+ Great Book & Literature Blogs

Below, you’ll find a list of 20 fine lit­er­ary blogs. Like our pod­cast col­lec­tions, this list will grow over time. In fact, it will become part of a larg­er list of great cul­ture blogs. Over the com­ing weeks, we’ll roll out new install­ments and then mash them togeth­er into one larg­er list. Stay tuned for more.

If you feel that we’re miss­ing some extra­or­di­nary blogs, please feel free to email us.

  • Blog of a Book Slut: Book­slut’s edi­tor-in-chief, Jes­sa Crispin, pro­vides links and com­men­tary for those who love to read. The pop­u­lar relat­ed web­site includes fea­ture sto­ries, author inter­views, reviews, columns about book-relat­ed con­tent, etc.
  • Book­Dad­dy: It’s your source for intel­li­gent book blath­er. The stat­ed mis­sion of the site is to “pon­der print media, lit­er­a­cy & pub­lish­ing. Any­thing on wood pulp, pix­els or stone is up for dis­cus­sion.”
  • Books, Inq: This blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at a book-review edi­tor’s world. In this case, the book review edi­tor is Frank Wil­son, of the Philadel­phia Inquir­er.
  • Book World: What you get here is one wom­an’s attempt to read what’s worth read­ing and say some­thing about it along the way.
  • Chekhov’s Mis­tress: An oft-cit­ed lit­er­a­ture blog writ­ten by Bud Parr, a book lover who also runs a net­work of lit­er­ary blogs called Metax­u­Cafe.
  • Con­fes­sions of an Idio­syn­crat­ic Mind: Sarah Wein­man puts togeth­er here “a respect­ed resource for com­men­tary on crime and mys­tery fic­tion.”
  • Crit­i­cal Mass: Offer­ing com­men­tary on lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, pub­lish­ing, and writ­ing, this blog is writ­ten by the Board of Direc­tors of the non-prof­it that issues the year­ly Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Awards.
  • Eve’s Alexan­dria: A nice­ly bal­anced mul­ti-per­son lit­er­ary blog com­ing out of the UK.
  • Lau­rable’s Poet­ry Weblog: A poet­ry weblog that spe­cial­izes in con­nect­ing read­ers with audio of poets read­ing their work.
  • Maud New­ton: A wide­ly-read blog that spe­cial­izes in pub­lish­ing & writ­ing indus­try news, plus occa­sion­al lit­er­ary links, amuse­ments, pol­i­tics, and rants.
  • Moor­ish Girl: A well regard­ed book and lit­er­a­ture blog writ­ten by Laila Lala­mi, author of Hope and Oth­er Dan­ger­ous Pur­suits.
  • Rake’s Progress: Named by The Guardian as one of the 10 best book blogs.
  • ReadyS­teady­Blog: Run by Mark Thwaite, this is an “inde­pen­dent book review web­site … devot­ed to review­ing the very best books in lit­er­ary fic­tion, poet­ry, his­to­ry and phi­los­o­phy.”
  • Slate Books: Even though tech­ni­cal­ly not a blog, it should be on your read­ing list.
  • So Many Books: Giv­en the tagline ‘the agony and the ecsta­sy of a read­ing life”, here’s a laud­ed blog that takes you into the read­ing world of Stephanie Hollmichel.
  • The Ele­gant Vari­a­tion: A well-reviewed and respect­ed book blog that tends to give spe­cial atten­tion to the LA lit­er­ary scene. Fea­tures a real­ly exten­sive blogroll that’s worth pick­ing through.
  • The Guardian Book Blog: It’s not exact­ly your aver­age inde­pen­dent book blog, but it’s got valu­able con­tent and it’s worth your time.
  • The Keny­on Review Blog: If you’re a writer, you sure­ly know The Keny­on Review, and you should also get to know their blog.
  • The Lit­blog Co-Op: A use­ful blog that unites the “lead­ing lit­er­ary
    weblogs for the pur­pose of draw­ing atten­tion to the best of
    con­tem­po­rary fic­tion, authors and press­es, strug­gling to be noticed in
    a flood­ed mar­ket­place.”
  • This Space: A lit­er­ary blog writ­ten by Stephen Mitchel­more, a blog­ger who Ready Steady Book deems “the finest writer we have in the lit­er­ary blo­gos­phere.”
  • Vulpes Lib­ris: “Vulpes Lib­ris: A mul­ti-nation­al pack of book­fox­es blog­ging, review­ing and chat­ting about books and book mat­ters. Par­tic­i­pa­tion wel­come.”
  • Words With­out Bor­ders Blog — This weblog is the online com­ple­ment to Words With­out Bor­ders: The Online Mag­a­zine for Inter­na­tion­al Lit­er­a­ture. And, yes, as you’d expect, it’s a lit­er­a­ture blog with an inter­na­tion­al focus.

Stay tuned for more to come!

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The Supreme Court Goes Digital

The Supreme Court has long tak­en heat for being in the tech­no­log­i­cal arrière-garde, a crit­i­cism that has seemed fair giv­en its unwill­ing­ness to even allow cam­eras into its oral argu­ments.

Slow­ly, how­ev­er, that per­cep­tion may be about to change. Accord­ing to the ABA Jour­nal eRe­port, the Court has stuck a small toe into the tech­nol­o­gy waters by pro­vid­ing web access to video­taped evi­dence that fig­ured into a recent case, Scott v. Har­ris. The url for the video gets ref­er­enced with­in the writ­ten opin­ion for the case, and a link is pro­vid­ed from the Court’s opin­ions web page. (You’ll need Real Play­er to watch it.)

The video itself is noth­ing spe­cial. It fea­tures very low qual­i­ty footage of a car chase tak­en from the dash­board of a police car, and it’s essen­tial­ly the same sce­nario that Amer­i­ca has seen played out for almost 20 years on Fox’s COPS. As you watch the video, you can’t help but feel that this land­mark moment for the court is a non-moment. But that’s per­haps to be expect­ed when a tra­di­tion-bound insti­tu­tion banal­ly enters a brave new world.

John Stewart: When Comedians Start Asking the Tough Questions

John_stewart_2When Bill Moy­ers returned to PBS two weeks ago, his first pro­gram took a care­ful look at how the main­stream media has fall­en down on the job when it comes to ask­ing tough ques­tions to politi­cians. Giv­en this start­ing point, it seemed log­i­cal for Moy­ers to speak next (iTunesFeed) with John Stew­art, host of The Dai­ly Show. That’s because adver­sar­i­al jour­nal­ism is now found more read­i­ly on Com­e­dy Cen­tral than on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc. The inter­view with Stew­art, which is quite sub­stan­tive and worth a lis­ten, makes ref­er­ence to John McCain’s recent appear­ance on The Dai­ly Show and also to Steven Col­bert’s famous/infamous roast of Pres­i­dent Bush in 2006. You can watch both below.

Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion shows have been sat­i­riz­ing politi­cians for a long time. That’s not new. But what’s new with Stew­art is that he’s upend­ing the whole point of tele­vi­sion satire. Whether you look at Jay Leno’s tame humor, or the more bit­ing humor of Sat­ur­day Night Live, the point of the satire has always been to get a laugh. For Stew­art, some­thing else is going on. Watch the McCain inter­view and you see that the joke is essen­tial­ly a prop, a con­ve­nient means of get­ting at some­thing much more seri­ous, a way of hav­ing a blunt, no non­sense con­ver­sa­tion, pre­cise­ly the kind of con­ver­sa­tion that the main­stream media has been large­ly unwill­ing, if not down­right afraid, to have with our lead­ers.

McCain on TDS

Col­bert Bush Roast

Oh the Humanity

The hydro­gen-filled Hin­den­burg went down in remark­able flames exact­ly 70 years ago in Lake­hurst, New Jer­sey. Below, we’ve post­ed the dra­mat­ic his­tor­i­cal footage. You can read here a decent account of what hap­pened on that day, plus inter­views with still liv­ing sur­vivors.

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