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The Critics Behind The Curtain

from the NY Observer

The Reviewers Come In From the Cold

At Publishers’ Weekly, A Tradition of Anonymity is Abandoned; Herewith, Our Brief Review of the Reviewers

BY LEON NEYFAKH

From an engraving depicting an American alderman of the 19th Century; he doesn't seem to like the book much

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From an engraving depicting an American alderman of the 19th Century; he doesn’t seem to like the book much

A review in Publisher’s Weekly tends to be a book’s first—some of the titles in last week’s issue won’t be on sale until the end of September—and for this reason, the dozens of reviews printed there each week, at about 200 words, are regarded as influential.

A “starred review” is a prize—a guarantee, almost, that booksellers, librarians, and book editors across the country will all take a look at a title when they get the galley in the mail. No guarantee that they’ll go for it—not even editor-in-chief Sara Nelson would ever argue that PW unilaterally sets the tone for a book’s reception—but in a field as crowded as this one, a mere look is a valuable thing.

Thus the reviewers of PW, who do not get bylines, have spoken as one as if from behind a drape for the past 136 years, their authority drawn from the classic (if not a bit fossilized!)PW brand and reinforced by the anonymity they are afforded by the magazine’s no-bylines policy.’

Who are these individuals? Enthusiasts, mainly. Schoolteachers, professors, stay-at-home moms, authors. It takes all kinds. We looked a handful of them up on Google, corresponded with a couple, and came up with some crude bios. Here’s an assortment….

[ click to read the Who’s Who of PW at Observer.com ]

Posted on July 20, 2008 by JDS

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