Thank you, Mr. Murdoch


Not just another pretty face

When I left the world of full-time, free-lance literary journalism a few years ago I didn’t realize I’d nimbly leapt from the Titanic onto a lifeboat — I had been too busy bailing water to notice.  Since then, three of the papers I wrote for regularly —  the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle — have drastically cut back their pages.  Other sections across the nation have folded altogether.

Who would have guessed that Rupert Murdoch (net worth: $6.3 billion) would offer a reprieve?  Just when you thought online amazon reviews or tweets might be swamping over the literary world, it appears the Wall Street Journal is launching an all go-to-hell pull-out book section later this month.

It’s true.  It’s true.  The New York Observer heard it from its WSJ sources, Forbes heard it from the NYO — and now I pass it onto you. The editor will be Robert Messenger, one of he founding editors of the New York Sun (if he’s the one who brought Adam Kirsch to its pages, that in itself recommends him), and the number of pages will be “significant.”

Forbes attributes the decision to Murdoch’s legendary hatred of the Gray Lady:

In fact, Murdoch hates the NYT so much that his quest to destroy it has been described as “Ahab-like” and certainly has the coin to finance his hunt for the, er, gray whale.  The majority of the changes at the WSJ over the past 3 years (Murdoch bought the paper in the summer of 2007) can only be understood in terms of positioning the paper as a NYT-killer. Why else a new Metro section focused on New York City, or the beefed up editorial staffing at foreign bureaus? The Times books coverage is world renowned. Of course Rupert is going to attack it.

6 Responses to “Thank you, Mr. Murdoch”

  1. Frances Madeson Says:

    Pity the emotionless trees. Thank you for your brutal selection from the coverage of this professional rassling non-event in Forbes Magazine. I’d like to think that old Fabrege-egg-loving, Village-People-motorcycle-helmet-wearing Malcolm would have swished out of his gold lame closet and stomped his Gucci loafer-clad feet before allowing Mellville’s name and creation to be abused so ignominiously in the glossy pages of the magazine he founded. If I were a man I’d head over to Fifth Avenue and 12th Street and take a hot, hard, steaming piss on the white brick facade of headquarters. As it is I have half a mind to go down to the old Customs House at the foot of Gansevoort Street and commence a hunger strike while wearing a tee-shirt that says: Leave Herman out of it, Meine Herren!

    From literature-hating aide de camp Adam Kirsch, I expect nothing but more of the same striding around the media bistro showing off his spit-polished, over-the-knee, calf-hide SS boots. What will he personally gain by being Murdoch’s Adam Gopnik? The right to stitch his yellow Jewish star on the inside of his lapel, when the time comes? For him I have two words of caution and for his family’s sake I hope he marks them: Margherita Sarfatti.

  2. Elena Danielson Says:

    I wonder what Sam Tanenhaus thinks of this

  3. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Dunno, Elena. But I think it’s entirely possible that a country the size of the United States might be able support two full-fledged book review sections.

  4. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Frances, I’m not so sure trees don’t have emotions.

  5. Frances Madeson Says:

    You’re probably right on about that. Well then, the characterization of the “removal” of over 50 beautiful mature trees from Lincoln Center to make way for Fashion Week as “arborcide” and “massacre” is not hyperbole. I truly pity the capos in the Department of Parks who were “just following orders.” Willing or unwilling, they executed the command. Very reminiscent of the Stella D’Oro cookie factory strike last year in the Bronx–all these miniature and diffused-Kristallnachts. Whatever you or your readers imagine about the daily cruelty being imposed on this city by its political and cultural leaders, it’s ten times worse.

  6. Dave Lull Says:

    Notes for a book in progress on aboricide can be found here: