I've mostly liked Jennifer Senior's time at the Book desk at the NYT - it is definitely not her fault that the editors have decided that books are passe and not worth a really quality section any more. Newspapers are run by the mostly illiterate country club set, who own the papers, and they think the way back to relevance is to diss reading and up the coverage of celebrities - which ignores the fact that reading is the act that the newspapers are selling. If you don't have a strong book culture, you don't have newspapers. But hey, go ahead and cut your throats and call it relevance. See if I care.
However, Senior's farewell NYT piece is sorta what I don't like about Writer-talk. It makes the writer out to be a special species, the cuddly curmudgeon, and so on. Myself, I like to think of the writer as an intellectual worker, on par with workers in the sphere of plumbing or asphalting. I've copped my view from the Soviet 20s attitude. Rodchenko, be my God! or something like that.
Alas, Senior is all about the inner circle that can read, say, the acknowledgements in a novel and spot the fact that the author was in a writing class with some famous names. Which is, to my mind, an exercise in so-whattery - unless one is trying to establish some larger point. So much of writing about writers takes the so-whattery route - like, what is your routine for daily writing? Now, I think routines are important, really important, but writers seem to be the only people who are asked this question. Actors, models, waitpeople, bartenders, politicians, etc. are never asked this question - which would be much more interesting in their cases. I would love to see an interview with a Senator that asks, so what is your routine for the average day? So far as I know, nobody asks this question to politicos.
Except of course Studs Terkel. I miss Studs Terkel.
Here's the link.