Has Keller ever even read Mad? More to the point: the Book Review as adversary of the publishing industry? Oh ho ho ho.

Evidently the frontrunners for The New York Times Book Review editor slot have been leaked to Rachel Donadio. Consideration is given to the merits of each in her New York Observer article, “Crighton, Shulevitz, Schwarz, Hulbert On Times Short List.” She also discusses the outrage with which fiction readers met Bill Keller’s now-infamous Book Babes interview and gives Keller an opportunity to do some damage control:

“As you can imagine, I’ve had a few panicky e-mails from people who have the impression that we want to turn The Book Review into Mad Magazine,” Mr. Keller told The Observer on Monday. That’s not the plan, Mr. Keller added, “with all due respect to Mad Magazine.” Mr. Keller said The Times had no intention of sacrificing fiction, and literary fiction in particular. “The goal is to somewhat increase the emphasis on nonfiction, but not move away from fiction.” He said that fiction versus nonfiction did not amount to a “zero-sum game,” because the paper would be adding more pages to The Book Review—although he said he didn’t yet know how many.

But even as Times editors rush to reassure the publishing industry that they won’t abandon fiction, they also made it clear that The Book Review is aimed at readers, not publishers—and that publishers should not expect The Times to come to their rescue when they print bad books. “I think The Book Review has historically gone out of its way to maintain its independence of the book industry,” Mr. Keller said. “I think it’s important that the relationship between The Book Review and the publishing industry be somewhere on the scale between independent and adversarial. The job of The Book Review is not to protect the publishing industry any more than the job of fashion coverage is to keep the garment industry alive. Some publications see that as their job. We sure aren’t one of them.” Mr. Moss emphasized that The Book Review has to be worth reading on its own merits, as well as serving as a consumer guide. “The best Review,” said Mr. Moss, “is one where ideas are engaged and furiously argued, and where readers get the guidance they need to figure out what’s worth $24.95 and several hours of their life.”


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