New Book Review

A new online book publication with an unfortunate acronym is in the midst of a launch, the Los Angeles Review of Books, or LORB. It is supported by the U. of Cal Riverside, where editor Ton Lutz is on the faculty, and other donors. The publication has an impressively long roster of contributing editors, including James Franco (we’re assuming that is the same James Franco as the author, actor, film director, screenwriter, painter, etc.)

Today, LORB released its first sample, which includes an essay on Nancy Mitford by Jane Smiley, Buster Keaton and the World of Objects by Geoff Nicholson, and The Death of the Book by Ben Ehrenreich.

Under “Further Information,”  the editors outline ambitious goals:

The LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS is the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century, and is designed to exploit the latest online technologies in ways that respond to a significantly transformed publishing world.  We are still working on the coding for the full site, and offer this ‘preview review’ in the meantime.

The great tradition of the American comprehensive book review, in magazine and newspaper form, has been in its death throes for years, replaced in partial and inadequate ways by crowd-sourced or user-generated forums for book talk on the web. There are numerous blogs, some quite excellent (and we will have deep linking relationships with the best of them), but very little in the way of full-range book reviewing—rigorously edited, carefully curated, deeply informed discourse by experts in their respective fields—has been mounted to take the place of the dwindling print reviews. The disappearance of the newspaper book review supplement … has been accompanied by an explosion of titles in the book market. The net result: twenty times as many titles are published each year than were in 1980, and we have one twentieth of the serious book reviews.

Unfortunately, none of the books published recently get serious attention in the currently available sample (in fact, the Keaton piece makes passing reference to just a single book; Keaton’s autobiography, which he dictated, but never read).

We’ll be watching to see how LORB develops. The list of forthcoming articles, however, promises more of what’s in the sample.

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