I am increasingly interested in perhaps converting this blog into a multi-author book review site. However, the sort of "book review" I have in mind would not be the thousand-word review designed to "cover" the newest releases as soon as possible after they are published. It still seems to me that too much current fiction that might potentially have staying power is being treated like the newest commercial Hollywood film the success of which is measured by the initial reviews and a highly profitable opening weekend. After the first flurry of reviews, too many novels and story collections begin their trip down the memory hole, and many books, of course, head for oblivion almost immediately when they get few reviews at all.
I would like to see more reviewers and critics wait to write about such books for a while after publication, to take some time to reflect on their response to them, perhaps considering the first wave of reviews as part of that response, and to place the book in the broader context of the writer's work as a whole or of important developments in contemporary fiction. I would like to read more critical essays that perhaps fall somewhere between the "book review" as practiced in literary journalism and "academic criticism," at least in its current form, which often subsumes the work to a broader agenda and seldom focuses on the experience of reading a particular work.
The Reading Experience would thus become a forum for reviews of this kind. I would contribute such reviews myself, but I would also be the "editor" in that I would be looking for other writers and critics to contribute as well. Since I can't pay anyone for the effort, unfortunately the reward would have to be in the value of the effort itself. I could imagine reviews of books that are appearing several months to several years after the publication date, as well as essays that attempt to retrieve books from the oblivion into which they threaten to fall because of a lack of attention.
If anything, poetry is even more endangered by current reviewing practices than fiction, since much important poetry is given no attention at all in book review sections and on book review sites. So I would be interested additionally in reviews of poets and poetry, especially those that attempt to identify the important work being done, either by examining single books by particular poets, or by grouping several poets together, or by discussing at length noteworthy anthologies.
If anyone reading this would have the time and the interest to do the kind of criticism I am describing, please let me know that. (Click on the "About" link above for the e-mail address.) Plans are at this time entirely nebulous, contingent on the interest shown by potential contributors, so I would be organizing this project on an impromptu basis. The blog will continue in its current form in the meantime.