Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Duking it out, sports-style

The Regular is a tiny place that makes the best espresso in Park Slope, where the competition is stiff. Another reason to go there is that they always have a few issues of the New York Review of Books on hand. Today, however, there also was a copy of the latest Columbia Journalism Review on the counter, so I read that while having coffee. (I'm the first to complain about Park Slope, but at the end of the day living in a neighborhood where you get these mags at the local coffee place ain't too bad.)

The most interesting thing in that CJR is a long article by Steve Wasserman, who used to be editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, about the state of book reviewing. He makes several interesting points, but one of them really caught my attention. He explains that when he got the job at the LA Times, he was inspired by the paper's sports section, and the way it covers the local teams thoroughly, in great arcane detail and with unflagging passion.

Yes! I often say that there's no reason we can't write and talk about culture with the same degree of involvement that sports fans bring to their turf. I cannot for the life of me fathom the point of dissecting the latest Giants or Knicks or Mets' collapse, but I'd love to find a forum where we could bring out similar focus and dedication to the discussion of, say, the baffling way the Roundabout programs its seasons. That company pretty much is the equivalent of the Yankees when it comes to New York theater: using its generous payroll to bring stars onboard, then trying to figure out what to do with them.

Back in the 1950s, then in the late 60s/early 70s, the monthly mags Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif represented two completely different ways to look at cinema and threw mud at each other constantly. You had to pick a camp and be ready to attack the theoretical and aesthetic positions of your adversary. What fun! It'd be great to inject a little dose of that type of zealous conviction to arts coverage.

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