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03 February 2008 @ 09:30 am
It's Itzkoff, Alas  
Dave Itzkoff is blathering again in the pages of the New York Times, once more demonstrating himself to be a critiquer of a field for which he feels only embarrassment. It's as if the newspaper has, after a long search, managed to select the anti-Michael Dirda as its regular SF reviewer.

There are times that I almost wish that the New York Times didn't cover SF at all rather than have Itzkoff covering it, because I don't like having to wince several times whenever I read each of his columns. Today, for example, while praising two YA novels, he actually begins by slamming the entire genre:

I sometimes wonder how any self-respecting author of speculative fiction can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers. I suppose J. K. Rowling could give me 1.12 billion reasons in favor of it: get your formula just right and you can enjoy worldwide sales, film and television options, vibrating-toy-broom licensing fees, Chinese-language bootlegs of your work, a kind of limited immortality (L. Frank Baum who?) and—finally—genuine grown-up readers. But where's the artistic satisfaction? Where's the dignity?


Where's the artistic satisfaction, Dave? Where's the dignity?

I hope that Ursula K. Le Guin gives him a smack upside the head.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in New York Times, Saturday Night Live comedian Bill Hader, out of work due to the writers' strike, offers the SF and fantasy books he's reading to pass the time. One of those books is Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty, about which he writes:

You get such a sense of joy and boundless imagination in every sentence—even if the story doesn't totally cohere, you feel like it's about something. It's so incredibly Tulsa. You get that feeling when you see a Flaming Lips show. It's not like we're dark and hurt and twisted. It's like, "I've got blood on my face—come on, y'all, this is awesome."


Hader also shares about Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box, John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids, and Clive Barker's Books of Blood.

Strangely, Itzkoff is the one who got Hader to share his reading list, stating "that the 29-year-old Tulsa native is not only capable of a totally killer Vincent Price impression—he's also one of the most well-read science-fiction and horror fans I've ever met."

Now if only Itzkoff would get out of the way and let Hader take over permanently, maybe something good will have come of the writers' strike!
 
 
 
RealThogrealthog on February 3rd, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)

I wonder if perhaps you're misjudging Itzkoff? The para you cite seems to me to be a sort of Devil's Advocate introduction which he then proceeds himself to counter by thoughtfully discussing two books which he quite clearly regards as having artistic integrity and dignity. He's thereby adopting a reasonably standard rhetorical stratagem -- setting up a straw man to demolish, if you like.

And he's persuaded me I must rush out and get myself a copy of the Mieville book! What author could ask more from a reviewer?
scottedelmanscottedelman on February 4th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
According to GalleyCat, I'm not the only one who doesn't like straw men.
RealThogrealthog on February 4th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)

Well, I disagree with the GalleyCat piece as well: it seems not without its own somewhat iffy preconceptions. Does that make me a bad person?
scottedelmanscottedelman on February 4th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, you're a good person. Just a bad wizard.
RealThogrealthog on February 5th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)
It's why they call me Pauldemort . . .
coppervalecoppervale on February 3rd, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
How does writing for young readers equate to no satisfaction, no dignity, and no self-respect?

And what do those sentiments say about the young readers themselves?

Geez.
RealThog: Jim's bear picrealthog on February 3rd, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
By the way, Scott, they may not have been there when you were reading the Hader piece, but there are now quite a few comments beneath it praising Lafferty -- yay!
scottedelmanscottedelman on February 4th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, I saw that! Attention must be paid to such a person!