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The Los Angeles Review of Books is a new, innovative, full-service book review we plan to launch on the web, with a print edition to follow. LARB will take full advantage of the latest technologies to create a book review and forum unlike any other.
Unlike other reviews, we will offer multiple reviews of the same book. We will take as many reviews as our contributing editors want to produce, and any and all excellent pieces that come over the transom. In some cases, of course, a book will only receive a single review, but in the case of the latest Zadie Smith, or Michael Chabon novel or Michael Pollan or Barbara Ehrenreich tome we can imagine a half dozen or even a dozen reviews, posted at different times.
Unlike other reviews, we will commission reviews of books at later points in their careers—new reviews when a book comes out in paper, for instance, when a year or so has passed for reflection, and again two, five, or even ten years down the road, as our contributing editors or reviewers have reason to look at it again.
Unlike print book reviews (although some websites do this now), we will devote a fair amount of space to recommendations. When our contributing editors come across a book they want to recommend, they will have a ready forum for disseminating a short take, without needing to devote the time to producing a full review, just offering a paragraph’s pitch for the book.
Unlike most reviews, we will also post critical pieces on classic authors and forgotten books, often making the books themselves available for free download. Jane Smiley, for instance, will be reviewing Nancy Mitford’s The Blessing (1951), a novel she feels is one of the great neglected classics of the century, in our first issue.
We will also offer classic pieces of book reviewing, like Melville’s reviews of Hawthorne or Virginia Woolf’s reviews, for instance.
We will encourage writers to share pieces off their regular beats; for instance, James Ellroy will be writing about why Beethoven is the greatest composer who ever lived.
Our contributors will offer occasional essays from their areas of expertise, as when Mike Davis writes about the 100th anniversary of the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building for our opening issue.
We also hope to get graphic novelists to review things in graphic form, and we're encouraging fiction writers to write stories about their reading of a novel rather than always producing a standard review, poets do write a poem about new poetry. We are also encouraging writers to write pieces for us that are not part of their everyday work. James Ellroy, for instance, is not particularly interested in reviewing books, but he will be giving us a piece on the music of Beethoven, a bust of whom watches him write.
We will also be performing a wide variety of aggregating functions, pulling literary material from around the web, reposting current reviews and pieces from years, even centuries ago, with the intent of building a very deep site, a kind of literary and critical online encyclopedia.
We plan to publish email round-robins on book- or writing-related issues. For instance, our first issue will feature Guggenheim and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Juan Felipe Herrera discussing the small press scene in Mexico City with Mexican poet Gabriela Jauregui, along with editor, essayist, and fiction writer Vivian Abenshushan and her partner in La Tumbona Edicciones, critic and author Luigi Amara, and scholar Josh Kun of the Annenberg School at USC.
We will also have regular columnists, a digest of book news and feature a variety of multimedia content—not just video and audio interviews, but readings, audio book excerpts, Skype mini-interviews, video interchanges, recorded readings, live reports from book festivals and other events—and all sorts of things we haven’t thought of yet. We're hoping, in other words, not to just be an alternate delivery form for the dying print book review, but to help develop new ways of fostering the conversation about books and culture.
Like the New York Review of Books and The Believer we will feature important, lengthy review essays on individual books and authors as well as on groups of books, on other aspects of art and culture (film in particular), and on social and political topics of general and intellectual interest. Like The New York Times Book Review and the other Sunday supplement book reviews (now all but gone) we will review important new fiction, poetry and nonfiction at publication. Like the recently departed (although perhaps resuscitated) Kirkus Reviews we will review some books before publication, and thus offer bookstores and libraries recommendations and advice. Like the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books we will review many serious academic books as well as trade publications.
And like Goodreads, we will have a series of forums for interaction between and among readers and writers, open forums, dedicated discussions about particular books and authors, ongoing discussions and debates about the book world and books.
All of this is much more content than a print review could contain, but we hope to be able to publish a 'best of' print edition eventually; this may start as an annual, turn into a quarterly, and then a monthly.
We will also develop an e-reader edition and a phone app, which we think of as shopping aids, since we will have click-through sales for any book mentioned on the site, and people could use the app to download directly to their phone, tablet, or e-reader, or use it while in a book store as a guide to their next purchases. We are hoping that the app will also be able to read a book’s ISBN so potential buyers can scan a book and pull up our reviews.
The contributing editors who have signed on are a Los Angeles- and West coast-centric group, as we hope to build on the sense of community that exists in these wilds far from New York, but we also plan to sign up more people around the country and around the globe, to complement the few Midwesterners, New Yorkers, Africans, Europeans, and Central Americans now on the list. We will have regular letters from Mexico City, London, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg, and, as we go on, we hope, elsewhere as well.
Our contributing editors have won a number of Pulitzer Prizes, National and American Book Awards, PEN Awards, and every other kind of distinction. We have appended a complete list below, but with people like T.C. Boyle, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michael Pollan, Barbara Ehrenreich, Kevin Starr, Manual Castells, Antonio Damasio, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Mike Davis, Susan Straight, John Rechy, Reza Aslan, Joe Sacco, Chris Abani, Janet Fitch, Juan Felipe Herrera, Yiyun Li, Jane Smiley, Jonathan Lethem and dozens of other superb writers, we think we can rest assured that, with its very first issue, LARB will become required reading for people in the world of books, and we hope it will become the first stop on writers’ and readers’ daily web tour. For people in the culture industry and others who just can’t wait, we will offer subscriptions to our ‘Raw Feed’—a pre-copy-edited text-only stream of content a week or longer before it is mounted on the site.
We also hope to be able to pay working writers a decent sum for reviewing. Now, except for a handful of book critics still employed by print publications, book reviewing has become entirely a labor of love. We will rely on some of that to get started, but we want to quickly become the first book review to pay freelancers a reasonable fee for their work, and thus help support literary culture materially as well as intellectually—our goal, in fact, is to be the highest-paying book review outlet in the world.
LARB is a mutating organism, being shaped and reshaped by an incredible group of writers, motivated and excited by this new forum. We are convinced that if we build it, to paraphrase the novelist, readers will come.
The Los Angeles Review of Books is edited by Tom Lutz, author of Doing Nothing (American Book Award, NY Times and LA Times bestseller), Cosmopolitan Vistas (Choice Outstanding Academic Book), Crying (NY Times Bestseller and Notable Book, 13 translations), American Nervousness, 1903 (NY Times Notable Book), and numerous other publications. He is Professor and Chair of the Department of Creative Writing and associated faculty with the department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside.
The Art Director is Margot Frankel, most recently art director for C Magazine and Town & Country.
Editors (pending funding) may include Laurie Ochoa (former editor-in-chief of LA Weekly and Gourmet), Laurie Winer (NY Times, Harpers’ Weekly, Wall St. Journal, LA Times), Kristine McKenna (LA Times, Playboy, LA Weekly), Michelle Huneven (LA Weekly and National Book Critics Circle nominee), Paul Mandelbaum (editor of Story magazine, Baltimore Magazine), and Kit Rachlis (former editor-in-chief of LA Magazine, LA Times, NY Times). Other editors include Carolyn Kellogg, Matthew Specktor, and editorial assitants Julie Cline and Kaitlin Manry.
Support has been provided by University of California, Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the Rosenthal Family Foundation, University of California Humanities Research Initiative, and private donors. Our Board of Advisors includes James Franco, Patty Gordon, Stacy Title, and Jamie Wolf. We are actively seeking further funding, but hope to become gradually moreself-supporting—through advertising, click-through sales, syndication, sales, and subscriptions—weaning ourselves from foundation funding over the years.
Attached is a list of our contributing editors so far.
LARB Contributing Editors
Chris Abani Robert Abele Diana Abu-Jaber Rabih Alameddine Daniel Alarcón Charles Altieri Ralph Angel Gustavo Arellano Reza Aslan Ann Louise Bardach Bruce Bauman Aimee Bender Tom Bissell Johanna Blakely Jon Boorstin T.C. Boyle David Bradley Leo Braudy Mark Breitenberg Douglas Brinkley Sarah Shun-lien Bynum Ron Carlson Manuel Castells Cecil Castellucci Marilyn Chin K.C. Cole Bernard Cooper Marc Cooper Peter Coyote Robert Crais Alba Cruz-Hacker Stephen Cullenberg John D’Agata Antonio Damásio Meghan Daum Barbara Davilman Mike Davis William Deverell Samantha Dunn Hope Edelman Barbara Ehrenreich Ben Ehrenreich Maria Amparo Escandon Alex Espinosa Jeffrey Eugenides Percival Everett Janet Fitch Sesshu Foster James Franco Judith Freeman Celeste Fremon Peter Gadol Lynell George Barry Glassner Jonathan Gold Tod Goldberg Rigoberto González Dana Goodyear Gigi Levangie Grazer Jonathan Green Seth Greenland Stephanie Elizondo Griest Nicola Griffith Jenny Williams Gruska Lee Gutkind George Haggerty Denise Hamilton Joy Harjo Gar Anthony Haywood Eloise Klein Healy Robin Hemley Juan Felipe Herrera Thomas S. Hines Claire Hoffman Joy Horowitz Michelle Huneven Barbara Isenberg Michael Jaime-Becerra Gabriella Jauregui Dana Johnson Ilya Kaminsky Marty Kaplan Barry Katz Carolyn Kellogg David Kipen Walter Kirn Jonathan Kirsch Carl Klaus Norman Klein Chris Kraus Josh Kun Laila Lalami Mariam Lam Richard Lange Rob Latham Michelle Latiolais Eric Lax Dinah Lenney Jonathan Lethem Yiyun Li Albert Litewka Aimee Liu M.G. Lord Sonja Lyubormirsky Kerry Madden Paul Mandelbaum Rubén Martínez Kristine McKenna Kembrew McLeod James McManus Christopher Merrill Anthony Miller Stephen Molton Yxta Maya Murray Vance Muse Carol Muske-Dukes Gina Nahai Maggie Nelson Geoff Nicholson Joy Nicholson Marisela Norte Achy Obejas Laurie Ochoa Chris Offutt Mary Otis Geneva Overholser Tim Page Jim Pascoe Marjorie Perloff John Perry John Durham Peters Gary Phillips Vanessa Place Michael Pollan John Powers Kit Rachlis John Rechy Richard Reeves Rachel Resnick Nina Revoyr Susan Salter Reynolds Rob Roberge Kim Stanley Robinson John Romano Nancy Romano Glen Roven Steven J. Ross Joe Sacco Shelly Salamensky Steven Salardino Mark Sarvas Richard Schickel David Schweizer Carolyn See Lisa See Danzy Senna Marisa Silver Maurya Simon Mona Simpson Jane Smiley Mark Haskell Smith Matthew Specktor Jerry Stahl Kevin Starr Louise Steinman David St. John Susan Straight Larry Swanson Sandi Tan Lisa Teasley Jervy Tervalon Ngugi wa Thiongo Scott Timberg Michael Tolkin David Ulin Diana Wagman Jon Wagner D.J. Waldie Ayelet Waldman Georgia Warnke Ellen Wartella Mary Yukari Waters Charles Francis Webb Ellis Weiner D. Charles Whitney Amy Wilentz Jon Wiener Rita Williams Andrew Winer Laurie Winer Sholeh Wolpe Jamie Wolf Terry Wolverton Paula L. Woods Elias Wondimu Al Young Matthew Zapruder Marlene Zuk