Sam Tanenhaus has been named editor of the New York Times Book Review. Here’s an excerpt from Bill Keller’s announcement to that effect:
Sam’s list of accomplishments should probably be headed by his virtuoso 1997 biography of Whittaker Chambers, a finalist for both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. Richard Bernstein’s review in ur pages called it “the kind of writing that can keep you propped up against your pillow late at night.” Sam is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and his writing on books and ideas has appeared in just about every significant venue in the English language (including our own magazine, Op Ed page, Arts & Ideas page and, of course, Book Review). Taking charge of the Book Review means he will set aside his current work in progress, a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. Though he has made his reputation in non-fiction, Sam’s M.A. from Yale was in English literature, and in our interviews we’ve found him to be an avid reader and incisive critic of serious fiction. To anyone who might have fallen for the notion that we were looking to dumb down this precious franchise: take that!
Several literary critics with whom I correspond applaud the decision. Opinions welcome.
Many correspondents believe Tanenhaus will do a good job of balancing fiction and nonfiction coverage and of restoring credibility to the Book Review after all of the recent controversy surrounding it. Others have expressed concern about the possible impact of Tanenhaus’ allegedly conservative politics on the nonfiction coverage, while at least three critics counter, “Hogwash. He’s not conservative at all.”