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Monday, October 8, 2012

Seeing Someone you know in the NYT Book Review

A guy I used to teach with just had his book reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. It is a strange moment because I have not seen this guy for over ten years and like most people of your past you forget about them. I knew he was still writing and producing books and getting reviewed but there is something about seeing a person in the NYT Book Review that just gives you pause. First of all, if you have ever had a book reviewed by the New York Times you know how difficult a feat this is to pull off. If it is fiction, a novel, then it is almost impossible.

I had my second novel reviewed by the Times and that was it. I just couldn't catch their interest on the other books. If you look at the Book Review Section then you understand why. Only a few of the reviews are designated for novels and the rest are non fiction. There are some roundups at the end where books get a paragraph but very few heavy duty reviews. A million books out there and only a few can come up and breathe the rarefied air of this very august newspaper.

And so when someone does get reviewed there it is a triumph of sorts. Even if the review is bad, someone deemed the book worthy of a review which means they took it seriously. Now we see the celeb novelists (Molly Ringwald) who get a review because they are famous, but literary novelists who are relatively unknown and manage to get space in the NYT section are really the one in a million shot akin to a winning lottery ticket.

And it wasn't a great review. But really, who cares. The fact was this guy had kept punching and floated up to a level few reach. In that way, it is with great discomfort I see this barometer, and figure I better start upping my own game, lest I breathe that air again.

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Books by William Hazelgrove