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Tuesday 23 August 2011

I Confess

I am rapidly becoming a fan of the Los Angeles Review of Books. It is, reportedly, the first major book review to be launched in the 21st century. The site’s first post, The Death of the Book, by Ben Ehrenreich, heralded the start of what is in fact a celebration of the continuing life of books – and the serious consideration of books.

It was started by Tom Lutz, and American writer and literary critic, presently Professor of Creative Writing and Media and Cultural Studies at University of California Riverside, in response to the shrinking space allotted to book reviews in the newspapers, to challenge the New York-centric emphasis on the literary world in the US and to include the diversity of literature being produced beyond the boundaries of the NY publishing world.

What you can view now is the temporary site, but when the full website is launched later this year, it will include an array of multimedia content, embracing new technologies for delivering books and ‘fostering the conversation about books and culture’.

While recognising the excellent contribution made by online blogs, the LARB’s aim is to make good use of professional journalists and critics who have been casualties of the reduced newspaper space, and to produce a ‘curated’ site, including different reviews, opinions and viewpoints, of new, classic and forgotten works by famous and unknown contributors from all over the world. They ‘hope to be of national and international interest, and to cover the national and international book scene’.

What is particularly refreshing for me is the eclectic nature of the content and the even-handed seriousness and respect that is given to widely different material and genres.

So far on the site you can find content ranging from philosophy to noir fiction, from biography to comics, from Heinrich Böll to Keith Richards, from Buster Keaton to Simone Weil, from Ross Macdonald to Nancy Mitford, from David Foster Wallace to Stephen King, and covering books published by publishers as varied as Virago, Little Brown, Busted Flush Press, Yale university and Black Lizard.

See for yourself. You will certainly find something you are interested in if you look – and if you are as curious and open-minded as the LARB, you may come across something you didn’t even realise might attract you.

I read recently of something called the Heffington Post – a Daly Mail-backed and very belated response and alternative to the Huffington Post. No sign in Britain yet of anything as remotely energetic and inclusive as the LARB.

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