My hunting fields are the usual suspects, but occasionally I seek commentary of an indirect sort. A little over two months ago, I saw a full-page ad in the New York Times listing the 2010 Guggenheim Foundation recipients. I wondered what this distinction said about the authors and their work, so I visited the Foundation’s Web site.
There, recipients are defined as advanced professionals, which means, for writers, having “a significant record of publication.” But exceptional promise for future work is also part of the mix – hence that indirect commentary that says “take note” when new books are published by these authors. Two recipients have books coming out this summer: Monique Truong and Anthony Doerr. And there is another author, David Rhodes, whose writing history caught my attention. And so his novel published in 2008, Driftless, is on my reading table.
Now for the hunting fields where I routinely focus my attention: Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and the reviews in the Sunday New York Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, London Review of Books (LRB) and the Times Literary Supplement.
I read a month or two ago a review in the LRB of With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch by David Morgan. It’s an unusual and revealing memoir – a gathering of notes – giving Morgan’s insider view of Murdoch based on their relationship in the 1960s. Not published in the U.S., I purchased it via The Book Depository. It is an example of why I read review publications from across the pond, to keep a wide-lens on the field of what’s being published and not reaching the U.S.
The aforementioned are all print editions. Online I read reviews in N+1 and Open Letters Monthly for their fresh intellectual takes on books, the book industry and authors.
Michael Dirda’s essays and reviews remain top of my list. He writes with authority that comes from a lifetime of not just reading and commenting on books but loving them. I follow Ron Charles’ Washington Post reviews via Twitter updates. Dwight Garner is a voice and viewpoint I follow in The New York Times and, of course, when I catch him on NPR, Alan Cheuse.
Photo credit: Tim Johnson