A big white sticker clings to the Fall 2007 issue of the Common Review. It’s positioned diagonally in the center of the cover, in the same fashion you might imagine a president stamping “veto” on an ill-fated bill. “Stop worrying about the decline of book culture,” it says. “Read the Common Review. All books, all the time.”
Bookworms across the nation have taken note of waning book coverage, and they’ve gotten especially loud about it during the past year. In the September/ October issue of Columbia Journalism Review, Steve Wasserman likens book review culture to species extinction in the Amazonian rain forest. Wasserman, who worked for nine years (1996-2005) as the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, has spent considerable time honing the art of book writing. “I wanted to deliver a section aimed squarely and unabashedly at the word-addicted and the book-besotted,” he writes. In his article for CJR, he reflects on the decline of literary coverage in nearly every major newspaper, offering his own anecdotes and lessons from the Los Angeles Times.
Enter: the Common Review. The magazine, which is published quarterly by the Great Books Foundation, is wholeheartedly dedicated to all things book-related, mixing literary analysis and traditional book reviews with original fiction and poetry. To sit down with the Common Review is to get the book-writing fix that you can no longer find in the daily newspapers.
Wasserman claims that most people want book writers to be “faster, shorter, dumber,” while he yearned to be “slower, longer, smarter.” The Common Review is just the place to find writers like Wasserman, who take their time with intelligent pieces about literature. —Cara Binder