Does anyone care if the Canberra Times doesn’t do local book reviews? [With poll]

johnboy 13 July 2012 22

The ABC is echoing the anguish of the luvvies as local book reviews are expurgated from the Canberra Times.

This surprised me slightly. Because in 25 odd years of reading the paper I can’t recall ever coming across that section. Consuming the paper only online for the last few years I can’t say I’ve found it in my travels there either.

Now here’s the thing; does a local perspective add anything to a book review? If there was someone local of such insight and perspicacity that they can outdo the book reviewers of the Guardian, Telegraph, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, or even the bigger Fairfax mastheads surely they would quickly be writing for those august bodies?

Does a Canberran, as a Canberran, have anything to say about, say, Hilary Mantel’s latest book “Bring Up The Bodies” that is going to be distinctive to our audience?

Probably not.

So the only real edge is writing about books written by local authors. This might explain why few outside the corridors of the sacred cows, were even aware this section of the crumbling Canberra Times was still consuming dead trees.

Now RiotACT has long supported local cultural endeavours. We champion local music, and cheerfully promote local playwrights, movie makers, painters, you name it.

On the rare occasion we’ve been sent a local book review we’ve been happy to find space for it too.

But the problem is that life’s too short for bad books.

A bad song wastes 3 minutes of my life. A bad short film 7 minutes. Bad theatre maybe 3 hours.

But a book takes up a couple of weeks of my life I could be reading something good. (If I have a really, really good book I can finish it in a couple of days but my entire life is on hold during the process).

Furthermore compared to the dazzling titans of global literature the quality gap is grating. The best of most local arts can at least sit comfortably in close comparison to the best anywhere (interestingly dance is probably another area where, once you’ve tasted the best, provincial offerings disappoint).

Realistically here we’re talking about local authors reviewing each other. Ideally this is the subject of a blog. That no blog has colonised the niche of Canberra literature reviewing truly makes one wonder what it was doing eating up newsprint in the first place.

That said, if you do come across a locally written book you’d care to recommend, please do let us know about it.

Do you care if the Canberra Times has locally written book reviews?

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22 Responses to Does anyone care if the Canberra Times doesn’t do local book reviews? [With poll]
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Henry82 Henry82 10:01 pm 15 Jul 12

People at the CT can read? I just assumed they used “text to sound” software

WillowJim WillowJim 9:00 pm 15 Jul 12

Little_Green_Bag said :

All I hope is that that raven haired, slab-faced “Environment reporter” Rosslyn Beeby …

Hmm. I see her about once a year at work events. Are you sure you’re defaming the right person?

poetix poetix 6:24 pm 15 Jul 12

Having just had two weeks in the sun this was the first thing I read on RA on return, and I have to say it makes me a little sad. Not just because I’m half way through writing a book review for the Crimes, but because, having judged the book review awards for the ACT Writers Centre, the standard of some reviews in the paper was high.

Why shouldn’t a review by a Canberra critic of any book be of equal standard to that published anywhere else? Why shouldn’t a book by a local author (perhaps with a small independent publisher with limited funds for publicity and limited distribution) be worthy of consideration? If the Crimes is only to reprint reviews from The Guardian, why buy the former? (I actually only buy it on Saturday for the poem and reviews, which makes me even more officially weird.) ‘Dazzling titans of global literature’ is a silly phrase, implying that there is no space for the regional. Or that regional is opposed to excellent. Les Murray, for example, is both ‘regional’ and internationally recognised. But without local recognition at first, would he have achieved that? I really don’t know.

I am one of the freaks who has reviewed a book for free here too, so it’s not just about cutting off access to endless piles of filthy lucre.

Now I’m off to tend to coral cuts, which are a good type of cut.

Jazz Jazz 5:53 pm 15 Jul 12

Bad Seed said :

I care because I know someone who wrties for them on an occasional basis and he does a great job and I will miss seeing his witty and well read contributions

You’re welcome to invite them to contribute here too.

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 5:49 pm 15 Jul 12

NickD said :

The Canberra Times has had a book review section in the Saturday paper for ages. While I don’t care where the reviewers live, it’s actually quite good, and is dramatically better than the awful book review section from the SMH which it appears will replace it. Most of the books which are reviewed aren’t in fact local – it seems rather odd that you’re abusing it as being a circle jerk after saying that you’ve never actually read it…

I agree. The issue is whether the quality of CT’s book reviews is better or worse than that provided by SMH. I’m not voicing an opinion on that – people can decide for themselves – but I do think that johnboy should have reviewed the reviews before poo-poohing the demise of Panorama.

Little_Green_Bag Little_Green_Bag 5:46 pm 15 Jul 12

All I hope is that that raven haired, slab-faced “Environment reporter” Rosslyn Beeby finally gets the boot. Her bleeding heart Greens propaganda has been wearing thin for a long time now and if staff are being cut, she should be the first to go.

Mr Evil Mr Evil 11:16 am 15 Jul 12

At this rate The Chronicle WILL shortly be the only newspaper worth reading in Canberra…….

simsim simsim 6:02 am 15 Jul 12

The hidden side message which is somewhat being ignored is that the CT is cutting back on ALL its local arts coverage, not just books. That will probably include local bands (which means that the chances of a local band to get an article in the Thursday lift-out is probably coming to an end)… local theatre (no more freebie write-up the week before opening and review the week after) … local art exhibitions …

It’s okay if you don’t care about local writing and literature, really. But when they do come after stuff you DO care about … well, don’t say you weren’t warned this was coming.

Bad Seed Bad Seed 9:07 pm 14 Jul 12

I care because I know someone who wrties for them on an occasional basis and he does a great job and I will miss seeing his witty and well read contributions

1337Hax0r 1337Hax0r 2:54 pm 14 Jul 12

The Canberra what? Is that a newspaper or something? I haven’t paid for news in at least a decade.

justin heywood justin heywood 11:36 am 14 Jul 12

….And if I wrote an article in the Canberra Times criticizing the RiotAct as little more than a collection of flame wars largely written by a handful of obsessives, my comments would be just an opinion.

But if I then confessed that I had never actually been to the RiotAct website, your response would be immediate and scathing, and rightly so.

Johnboy, your eagerness to (prematurely) dance on the grave of ‘old media’ has clouded your judgment.

damien haas damien haas 8:27 am 14 Jul 12

I will miss the CT book reviews. Especially Australian history and military history book reviews. There are some specialists in this field that live and work in Canberra.

Every local voice we lose decreases the relevance of the CT to its audience.

Im hoping that the reviewers will still be used, perhaps on a national scale, but I guess that we wont hear about canberra-centric books anymore.

Holditz Holditz 12:31 am 14 Jul 12

Colin Steele, one of the CT’s book reviewers, was one of the few specialised reviewers in Australia to review science fiction. He recently donated his collection of signed books to the ANU.

bliptoe bliptoe 9:02 pm 13 Jul 12

buzz819 said :

Umm, I really wouldn’t care if the Canberra Times did not exist at all…

+1.

If it’d help save the Age & SMH, axe CT. Please.

NickD NickD 8:14 pm 13 Jul 12

The Canberra Times has had a book review section in the Saturday paper for ages. While I don’t care where the reviewers live, it’s actually quite good, and is dramatically better than the awful book review section from the SMH which it appears will replace it. Most of the books which are reviewed aren’t in fact local – it seems rather odd that you’re abusing it as being a circle jerk after saying that you’ve never actually read it…

I-filed I-filed 5:16 pm 13 Jul 12

johnboy said :

oooh, so it’s jammed into the ad filler?

not that I pay for dead trees anyway.

e-readers are nothing but spies and dataminers, from recent reports. Every paragraph you note, even how long you linger on a page, is recorded. I’d rather the paper option to read, thanks!

SnapperJack SnapperJack 5:09 pm 13 Jul 12

I stopped taking reviews in The Canberra Times seriously as far back as 1988 when they published a review of one of the Australia All Over CDs where they slagged all the music on it and said the only worthwhile track on it was a spoken piece of poetry.

To me, this epitomised the snobbish, elitist, left wing attitude of the paper as a whole.

I still have the Australia All Over CD and it has been on high rotation on my car CD player for years. The same can’t be said about The Canberra Times which I – and many others – stopped buying years ago.

PickedANickname PickedANickname 4:51 pm 13 Jul 12

Not a surprise that you aren’t familiar with Panorama magazine. It is a bit high brow.

    johnboy johnboy 5:00 pm 13 Jul 12

    oooh, so it’s jammed into the ad filler?

    not that I pay for dead trees anyway.

buzz819 buzz819 4:00 pm 13 Jul 12

Umm, I really wouldn’t care if the Canberra Times did not exist at all…

neanderthalsis neanderthalsis 3:46 pm 13 Jul 12

Canberra times readers are generally illiterate anyway, so no sales to be made by promoting local books there.

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