Critical Mass

Kirkus and the “Element of Surprise”

By Eric Banks

Reacting to the shuttering of Kirkus, which published in the neighborhood of 5,000 advance reviews annually, Mark Athitakis celebrates the “element of surprise” he profited from in writing for Kirkus:

“Kirkus assignments forced me out of my comfort zone; without Kirkus I wouldn’t have discovered Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone or Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout or Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, to name just a few. I think every critic could stand to pick out a book at random every so often, just to test one’s prejudices; it’s a time-consuming exercise, but it helps give you clearer sense of your likes and dislikes. If I can’t have that experience as a reviewer, I’ll pursue it as a reader.&rdquordquo;

Media Bistro’s Jason Boog has a few early reactions in yesterday’s posting, while Leon Neyfakh, in the New York Observer, noted the more mixed reception among publishers and agents, including this zinger from ICM co-chair Esther Newberg:

“I'm sorry if some people have lost their jobs. I want to make that part very clear. But it's never been a publication worth anything. The reviews were almost always negative and not helpful in any way. And so that's it. Good riddance.”