WP Book World

by Henry Farrell on January 26, 2009

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for the last week or so; one of the things that I would have written about if I had been around are the persistent and well sourced rumours (see e.g. “Scott’s post at _IHE_”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/blogs/intellectual_affairs_the_blog/shutting_down_the_washington_post_book_world ) that the _Washington Post_ is considering shutting down their weekly _Book World_ supplement. Editor Marcus Brauchli (whom, if rumor is to be believed, is pushing the change) has prominently failed to deny the reports, merely stating that “We are absolutely committed to book reviews and coverage of literature, publishing and ideas in The Post” (which I suspect, if decoded, translates to something like “we may still stick in the odd book review as filler when we’re running low on Paris Hilton stories”). The closure of _Book World_ is something I’d take personally; when I first came to DC in the 1990s, it was a surprise and a delight to see pieces that took, say, John Crowley seriously, interspersed with the more usual reviews of biographies, political books and so on. And Michael Dirda should be declared a Living Treasure. I understand that this decision isn’t set in stone – if you want to tell the Washington Post that this is a bad idea, you can do so “here”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/opinions/feedback/index.html#tellusBox. _WP_ subscribers are especially encouraged to make their feelings known.



JulesLt 01.27.09 at 12:11 am

Strikes me as a very bad idea – the book (and to a lesser degree, general arts) review sections are about the only reason I buy physical copies of broadsheet papers – and the last parts to enter the recycling bin.

But then I guess most newspapers are under ever increasing pressure to cut costs, and with Amazon full of free customer reviews, who needs paid critics?


P O'Neill 01.27.09 at 12:20 am

Maybe they need the room for that rising star of counterintuitive scribbling, Billy Kristol.


Melissa 01.27.09 at 12:42 am

The Globe & Mail shut down their Book Review about 6 weeks ago. Toronto & DC both are about 5.5 million—a size that should support a quality newspaper with a book review.


Rich Puchalsky 01.27.09 at 1:25 am

Unfortunately, I think you’re appealing for comments from a null set. Anyone who takes John Crowley seriously (as I do) seems likely to be also the kind of person who long ago cancelled their WP subscription during the Bush years.


Joy 01.27.09 at 1:33 am

A few weeks ago, two of the most beautiful poems I’ve read recently were printed in the Book World poetry column. They were unpublished poems made available to the columnist by the poet. Life would be a bleaker place without experiences like that.


Dave Irvine 01.27.09 at 2:09 am

Book World is the first section I turn to Sundays; ending it would be a terrible decision. I miss Sunday Source, as well. And yes indeed, Dirda IS a National Treasure. I’m still peeved they shut down his weekly chat–it’s the only one I read on a weekly basis, aside from Weingarten’s.


jacob 01.27.09 at 3:10 pm

I swear that it’s like Donald Graham is trying to destroy his mother’s newspaper to spite her. Many years ago I read a profile in the New Yorker of him that stressed that he thought his main competition was from small, suburban community papers. This meant that he insisted on keeping the newsstand price of the Post very low (25 cents at the time), and emphasizing local suburban news, often at the expense of national or international news. (At the time, I thought he also did so at the expense of District news, though having moved from DC some time ago I can’t say whether poor District coverage has continued.)

Then there’s his politics–the rightward drift of the editorial page in particular–which must pain his mother’s ghost particularly. I’ve thought for a while, based on the editorial positions of the paper except at endorsement time, that the Post would have endorsed Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008 were in not for Don Graham’s fear that his mother would come back and haunt him if he ever endorsed a Republican presidential candidate.

I don’t live in DC anymore, as I say, but it pains me to see a how an institution built by one generation can be so destroyed by the next.


LFC 01.28.09 at 4:01 pm

Ending Book World is a terrible idea. It would eventually harm the Post in all ways, including, I suspect, financially.

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