Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Very Itzkoff Christmas

Our hard-working New York Times SF correspondent, the renowned Dave Itzkoff, has a new column in this week's Book Review. Sadly, I haven't seen it in print, because my carrier decided not to deliver my paper yesterday.

But I have, through the modern miracle of the Internet, read that column, and I can now continue my relentless program of Itzkofff watching.

Once again, Itzkoff manages to file a column without actually reading any new SF books, though he does get a few points for being intermittently amusing. This column proposes SFnal books and stories that all of the major candidates for US President in 2008 (and a few others) should read, for mostly snarky reasons. I like snark, but this belongs on the op-ed page, not in the Book Review. It particularly doesn't belong when one realizes the last time Itzkoff filed an "Across the Universe" column was on June 24th (when he reviewed the Library of America Philip K. Dick volume, Four Novels of the 1960s, a book that more cynical commentators might suggest Itzkoff did not even have to read to review).

Blowing off half a year and then not doing the reading is what a layabout does at a minor state college, not the expected behavior of a columnist for The New York Times Book Review. Itzkoff has always been embarrassing, but this is his worst behavior so far.

Itzkoff is now worse than no SF reviewer for the Times; he's taking space that could otherwise be used for better purposes. Even a blank white page would be more useful than an Itzkoff SF "review." It's time for the man to admit he knows nothing about modern SF, and concentrate on writing about music, which he actually does seem to understand. And it's time for Sam Tannenhaus to either can the "Around the Universe" column entirely, or find someone who is more qualified to write it. That shouldn't be hard; I must know two dozen people personally who could do a better job than Itzkoff.


jmnlman said...

It's not like the Washington Post is much better. From their book blog "Great Sci Fi for People Who Think They Don't Like Sci Fi"

Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges
Fiasco, by Stanislaw Lem
The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
1984, by George Orwell
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Anonymous said...

Heh. I thought of you when I saw this link on Making Light last night.

The part that bothered me the most was that he didn't explain why Romney likes Battlefield Earth best.

Sean O'Hara said...

The part that bothered me the most was that he didn't explain why Romney likes Battlefield Earth best.

Well, he's a Mormon so he clearly enjoys religious fanfic.

Unknown said...

Well, and to add, he got the synopsis of Childhood's End wrong. I talked about that on my blog in reference to Clarke's B-day. Either he hasn't read the book or hasn't read it in a few decades, or he took the synopsis from Wikipedia, which is also humorously wrong.

Anonymous said...

Once a month for last decade or so, the Post has had an SF review section, done by various folks.

And you never can tell where the SF reviews will show up. Michael Dirda did a full page review of 2 Howard Waldrop collections. Take that NYTBR!

Michael Walsh

Anonymous said...

Sean, we know why Romney likes Battlefield Earth -- it's a requirement of his religion -- but I doubt non-genre fans do.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Marilee: I think you're confusing Mormons and Scientologists -- Mormons are the ones with the special underwear, while the S-ologists wear P-meters.

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