For all the reasons Gumport names so compellingly, we at the Los Angeles Review of Books have steered clear of simple, single-book reviews, opting whenever possible to post essays that do something more than just anoint or denounce a particular book. There are a million titles a year being published, and millions already published; I read books for a living, as many books as anyone, and yet I need help sorting through them. A dozen of us come together each week and share our reading, and all of us read all the time, and still we need help figuring out what to cover. Back in graduate school, I began to notice that my colleagues and I, averse as we were to making literary judgments, were perfectly happy to evaluate everything else: somebody’s taco stand, somebody’s cocaine, somebody’s art film. Just not poetry. Not novels. And this despite the fact that we knew more about the history of the novel than we did about film or pharmacology. It was silly of us to pretend not to discriminate, and irresponsible, I think, not to make a point of sharing our discriminations about the books we were reading. I need help to know what virus protection program to use, whether or not I have cancer, when my timing belt needs changing; I need the advice of people who pay attention to such things. People should be able to count on us, professional readers and writers, to let them know what’s up, to give them, as best we can, a review of books.
TOM LUTZ lareviewofbooks