Among his other hats, our good friend Roger Kimball is the publisher of Encounter Books, which I’m proud to say published my book, Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.
Roger has announced that Encounter will no longer be sending its books to the New York Times. The Gray Lady’s storied Sunday Book Review studiously ignores them — regardless of how well they sell, how compelling they may be, how distinguished their authors are — except, on the odd occasion, to trash them. (Mine thus far has been ignored rather than trashed, though its gotten a fair amount of attention, several gratifying reviews, including from Bruce Thornton in NR, and made the Times’ extended bestseller list.)
Encounter has posted the announcement on its website, here. (It’s also discussed on Roger’s indispensable PajamasMedia website, here.) Vintage Roger, every word is well worth reading, but I especially like conclusion:
Once upon a time, and not that long ago, it meant something if your book was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. A Times review imparted a vital existential certification as well as a commercial boost. Is that still the case? Less and less, I believe. The Times in general has lost influence as the paper has receded into parochial, left-liberal boosterism and politically correct reportage. And where its news and comment have become increasingly politicized, its cultural coverage has become increasingly superficial and increasingly captive of establishment, i.e., left-liberal, pieties and “lifestyle” radicalism.
Sure, a positive review in the Times still helps sell books. But it’s quite clear that books from Encounter won’t be getting those reviews, so it is pointless for us to send copies of our books to the Times—worse than pointless, because by so doing we help to perpetuate the charade that the Book Review is anything like even-handed in its treatment of conservative books. There is also this fact: the real impetus in selling books has decisively shifted away from legacy outlets like The New York Times towards the pluralistic universe of talk radio and the “blogosphere.” That is why Encounter can see its books on the Times’s bestseller list without ever making it into the paper’s review columns.
A couple of decades ago, the novelist Charles Simmons wrote a hilarious send-up of The New York Times Book Review called The Belles Lettres Papers. Simmons had been an editor for the Book Review, and he knew the sad, sordid (albeit unintentionally funny) story from the inside. It’s too bad that there isn’t a new Charles Simmons to write an update, showing what happens to a lumbering giant as it lurches further and further into politicized self-righteousness, intellectual mediocrity, and journalistic irrelevance. It might even be worth a book, though not, I’d wager, one that you’d see reviewed in The New York Times.