Saturday, April 17, 2021

125 Years of Writing: Development of Book Review


Ever since The Times began publishing in 1851, book news has been a central component of its report. And no wonder. Francis Brown, editor of the Book Review from 1949 to 1971, wrote of that early era, “It was the era of Turgenev’s Darwin and Huxley’s Whitman, Longfellow, Tennyson and Boudelaire’s Trollope and Dickens and Thackeray of Russia. , Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, American Mark Twain, Howells, Henry James. “The words of these great writers are scattered throughout the paper, in reviews, features, letters, and more.

So it was perhaps no surprise when Adolf S. Ochs, setting up a stand-alone supplement soon after becoming the paper’s publisher in 1896, chose to gather this coverage in a dedicated book section. The first edition, then called the Saturday Book Review Supplement, incorporates 10 unsigned reviews in conjunction with a list of new books and literary news, including the words of Oscar Wilde’s prison.

In its early days, Book Review treated books strictly as news. The Book Review in 1913 stated, “Literary criticism, an excellent thing in its own way, but, properly speaking, an instrument rather than an end, has never been the main object of its existence”. All sensible and honest viewpoints are always accessible in The New York Times Book Review. “

This ethos guided the book review through many changes in its early years. In 1911 it was moved to Sunday in hopes of attracting more attentive readers. For a period of two years beginning in 1920, the book review was written in Sunday Magazine. Soon after, the use of bylines became standard practice, and book review editors began Recruit more external contributors For his expertise. A world war had come and gone, the Book Review had changed and changed again, but “books as news” remained its guiding philosophy.



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