Room For Reviews? by John Sutherland

John Sutherland

Room For Reviews?


I have spent half of the last quarter of a century in Los Angeles. In that city there is (or was) only one newspaper with a worthwhile literary supplement. Over the years I have read it, contributed to it, and, sadly, watched it wither.

In the early 1980s the stand-alone Los Angeles Times Sunday supplement was edited by Art Seidenbaum. An old-school book-man, Seidenbaum cultivated good writing. The tenure of his successor, Jack Miles, coincided in the mid-1980s with an insidious fall in circulation. A distinguished academic and author in his own right (he would go on to write a Pulitzer-winning biography of God), Miles was a new broom.

Larger brooms than his were, however, sweeping in the opposite direction. The new policy at the LAT was that ‘every ship must float on its own bottom’ – every section of the paper must pay its way by attracting advertisements.

From one angle, a quality newspaper’s literary pages are dirt cheap.

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