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When is a review not a review?

Answer to the above question: When it's an editorial. GalleyCat recently blogged about an article in the Yale Daily News about New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, who gave a talk (over tea!) at Yale recently. The GalleyCat bit only mentioned the fact that Tannenhaus believed the NYTBR "extreme reviews" would balance out over time, and that he preferred that situation to trying to run a single definitive review of each book.

But when you look at the Yale article, it's actually largely about Tannenhaus' conservative politics affecting the reviews. I'm guessing this is mostly an issue for reviews of nonfiction books, although certainly novels can have politics and political views at their core. One person who attended Tannenehaus' tea and no sympathy was Yale alumnus Geoffrey Liu who was quoted as saying "he has come to see the challenges of presenting one’s personal beliefs in the reviewing process." Here's Mr. Liu's take:

“At first I thought it was an analytical profession,” he said. “But when you start dealing with the ethical problems, it becomes a philosophical profession.”

It's interesting to me that this editor admits, even circumspectly, to a certain level of bias. It sounds as if the publishing dictionary should have the word "opinion" as a synonym for "NYT book review."

Also noted: For some reason, the GalleyCat link to the Yale article only lets you print it, not read it on screen. What's that all about?


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