Dawn of the unbook

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Over the past few weeks we’ve featured a series by William McGowan, the prominent journalist and author, most recently, of Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America. The book authoritatively covers the important and interesting subject suggested in its subtitle.
In his series of posts for us Bill has examined the Times‘s treatment of national security issues. In the concluding installment of this series he will also take a look at other issues of adult supervision at the Times.
The Times has protected its readers from any news of McGowan’s book. Miami Herald television critic Glenn Garvin wondered why that might be. He even contacted Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus — the guy who declared the death of conservatism after the election of Barack Obama — to find out why.
McGowan’s book is published by Encounter Books. A few years ago Encounter publisher Roger Kimball quit sending review copies of books to the Times. Roger posted his announcement of the firm’s farewell to the Times, essentially observing that the firm’s money might more profitably be spent on paper clips. Roger’s policy plays a role in Garvin’s report on the fate of McGowan’s book at the Times:

Though he was hand-delivered a review copy of Gray Lady Down shortly before it was published last November, Tanenhaus has not permitted a single word about the book to appear in his section. The purported reason: The review copy was delivered by the author, not the publisher. The Times book review “doesn’t accept books from importuning authors,” Tanenhaus told the website Gawker. “We deal exclusively with publishers, who verify [publication] dates and supply finished and additional fact-checking copies.”
And indeed it’s true that Encounter Books, the conservative publisher of Gray Lady Down‘s publisher, stopped sending copies of its books to Tanenhaus three years ago — because his section never reviewed them. Or virtually any other books from the right side of the conservative spectrum, either. It doesn’t matter if they are intellectual blockbusters (Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB, by historians John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, which offered evidence that lefty icon I.F. Stone was a KGB agent). Or sales blockbusters on the Times‘ own best-seller list (America Alone, by Mark Steyn, which argues Europe is being buried under a tidal wave of Islamization ). Or fiercely topical (A Slobbering Love Affair, by Bernard Goldberg, which documented flagrant media worship of Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign). To The New York Times, they’re unbooks that simply don’t exist.
To be fair, there’s a lot of competition for space in the Times book review. And probably it’s too much to expect Tanenhaus to make space for a review of James Piereson’s fusty Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism when you’ve got elegant pieces on Toni Bentley’s The Surrender (a ballerina’s encomium to the liberating qualities of sodomy), or Scott Poulson-Bryant’s Hung : A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America (self-explanatory) or Jenna Jameson’s How To Make Love Like A Porn Star (even more self-explanatory).
Hey, Sam, how many copies of those did you need for fact-checking?

Encounter has published many outstanding books over the years, including (in case you may have missed it) Leo Thorsness’s Surviving Hell, about which I have had a little to say. You may want to check out Encounter’s site. Garvin’s excellent column is, in any event, not to be missed. It is “New York Times’ bias in book reviews.”

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