Welcome to the Jungle

A few years ago I wrote a feature story about the future of libraries in the age of the internet (that future is quite good, actually -- unlike the internet, libraries are about organized information, and as one of the last public spaces in America, they do much more than keep the rain off books). One library expert said that the internet isn't really the answer to all our data-MP3-JPG-weblog-newsfeed needs. It isn't even the "information superhighway."

It's "the stuff swamp."

True. So I've put on my waders and I'm going to go dance with the Swamp Things.

As many readers know, last month I took a "voluntary severance" from the book columnist's job at The Dallas Morning News because the paper was dumping a lot of its staff. After 20 years there, the environment had become wearying and bleak as futile focus group followed silly "leadership seminar" followed desparate "re-invention," and the staff lost all faith that management had any faith in what we did. In fact, the managing editor made it plain how expendable he considered arts journalists and quality cultural coverage.

So I walked -- even though I had no plans, no work lined up. Actually, I should say I never left the job. I was the only full-time, on-staff book critic in the state of Texas. But it's the job that left. It doesn't exist anymore.

As I tried to convey in my farewell column, none of this has made me particularly bitter about newspapers or books. Or even the Morning News, as sad as it is. No, nothing -- not this blog, not all the blogs combined -- has really replicated what the book or the big-city newspaper does, although neither of those has been helped by panicked owners, giant media mergers and Wall Street-dictated profit margins.

For me, it's just that a lot of the fun and the smarts had left the field. So that's what I hope to do here. Not replace my newspaper work. Just return to the original motivating pleasures. To a level of discourse, lively inquiry and irreverent humor.

Thanks to readers and co-workers who expressed their support. Thanks and love to Sara. Thanks to John Freeman of Critical Mass for printing the farewell column that the Morning News wouldn't.

And thanks to Doug McLennan of artsjournal.com for giving me the opportunity to work all this out while I recover from shoulder surgery and learn to dance in waders.

October 22, 2006 4:10 PM | | Comments (3)



So glad Doug found you or you him--the loss to Texas is more than made up for by making you more accessible to the world...Not to mention the perk of being able to say any bloody thing you like!
As editor-in-chief of a regional publisher (to say struggling would be redundant), I was pleased to hear that the reports of the demise of libraries has (once again) been premature.
As mentioned in another column on this site, we publishers will use any kind of award to get readers to notice a good book. But sometimes, regardless of hoopla or awards or even great "small" reviews, a good book goes by the wayside. Sometimes even an important good book. So, thank goodness for libraries! When I despair that the two books we produced in the last 3 years that I thought most meaningful have had the least amount of sales, at least I can find them in the local, and in a few cases regional, library.
Keep up the good work--I loved the thriller lists (four out of your ten would be on mine), and I admire and enjoy your humor and incisive wit!
Jennifer Redmond

As a librarian, I have to say thank you. As a blogger with a book blog (www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com), I have to say, welcome to the world of blogging. But, I'm sure readers in Texas are going to miss you.

I like the "swamp stuff" line. My concern is definitely with who is organizing this information online - librarians, editors, artists controlling their own sites, or just any anonymous person with internet access. Do you have any concerns about the potential "free for all" in the swamp?

Looking forward to more on the blog!


Best of the Vault


Pat Barker, Frankenstein, Cass Sunstein on the internet, Samuel Johnson, Thrillers, Denis Johnson, Alan Furst, Caryl Phillips, Richard Flanagan, George Saunders, Michael Harvey, Larry McMurtry, Harry Potter and more ...


Big D between the sheets -- Dallas in fiction


Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

Papers are cutting book coverage for little reason

Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



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This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on October 22, 2006 4:10 PM.

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