The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

Criticism Outside New York

The provincial literary editor turns out his page a week under handicaps that would throw a Humanist critic into a fit of chills and fever. Whatever the final product, his actual working methods are a perfect example of motion perpetually lost and of decorum eternally foundered in petty exasperations. Nine times out of ten, his book page editing is a part-time job, for no managing editor in his senses would think of giving a book editor an equal status with a sports editor or a society editor. So he is generally an editorial writer, or a Sunday editor, or sometimes merely a copyreader or a reporter, who does the book page on the side; or, as is more and more getting to be the case, he is a college professor who is called in to furnish a little genteel window dressing for the comic strips and the murder stories. Probably he has no clerical help, except what he can beg or pay for out of his own pocket. He must write his own letters, which will be numerous if he really keeps up with the new books and his reviewers; and more than likely, if he mails out review copies to selected critics instead of casually handing them out to staff members and friends, he will have to do the wrapping and posting himself. Merely the physical handling of the books is a trial to the flesh, for at the height of the spring and fall seasons they come in by the cartload and must be put in decent order. They must above all be put in a safe place, away from the casual thievery of the staff, who will think nothing of walking off with anything from a Zane Grey novel to Colonel House's memoirs.

But such minor afflictions are nothing in comparison with

____________________

Davidson wrote this article, originally called "Provincial Book Reviewing," for Bookman, May 1931. The editor asked him to use this less controversial title. Several paragraphs at the beginning are omitted.

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