Open Letter to The New York Times Book Review

Open Letter to The New York Times Book Review

August 12, 2012

Sam Tanenhaus, Editor
The New York Times Book Review
620 Eighth Avenue, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Dear Mr. Tanenhaus,

I write to ask you to reassess the policy of The New York Times Book Review, as stated on the submission help page, that “we only review books . . . available through general-interest bookstores.”

Such a policy does not serve the best interests of readers, writers, nor the general culture. It serves the economic hegemony of largely New York corporate publishers and corporate distributors and bookstores, as well as the library journals of review and acquisition, and other outdated gatekeepers. It prevents new voices and ideas from reaching the nation. With the development of online booksellers and ebooks and the demise of Borders, the policy is no longer defensible, if it ever was.

I have enclosed a second letter that introduces myself and my accompanying epic poem, which I believe is the first epic poem in the English language in 345 years and the first global, universal epic. I invite you to consider reviewing it.

As a Post-Gutenberg writer and publisher, I reject the old model and ask The New York Times Book Review to embrace the new one now struggling to be born.

Sincerely yours,

Frederick Glaysher


— Second letter enclosed —

August 12, 2012

Sam Tanenhaus, Editor
The New York Times Book Review
620 Eighth Avenue, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Dear Mr. Tanenhaus,

I invite you to review The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem, which will be published in November, and takes place partly on the moon, at the Apollo 11 landing site, the Sea of Tranquility. I believe it is both the first epic poem in the English language in 345 years and the first global, universal epic.

Apollo calls all the poets of the nations, ancient and modern, East and West, to assemble on the moon to consult on the meaning of modernity.

All the great shades appear: Homer and Virgil from Greek and Roman civilization; Dante, Spenser, and Milton hail from the Judeo-Christian West; Rumi, Attar, and Hafez step forward from Islam; Du Fu and Li Po, Basho and Zeami, step forth from China and Japan; the poets of the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana meet on that plain; griots from Africa; shamans from Indonesia and Australia; Murasaki Shikibu, Emily Dickinson, and Jane Austen, poets and seers of all ages, bards, rhapsodes, troubadours, and minstrels, major and minor, hail across the halls of time and space. One of the major themes is the power of women and the female spirit across cultures. Another is the nature of science and scientism, as well as the “two cultures.”

I studied writing with the poet Robert Hayden, who was one of W. H. Auden’s students at the University of Michigan in the early 1940s, edited both Hayden’s prose and poems, and have written or edited several books.

I lived for more than fifteen years outside Michigan—in Japan, where I taught at Gunma University in Maebashi; in Arizona, on the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation, site of one of the largest internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII; in Illinois, on the central farmlands and on the Mississippi; ultimately returning to my suburban hometown of Rochester. A Fulbright-Hays scholar to China in 1994, I studied at Beijing University, the Buddhist Mogao Caves on the old Silk Road, and elsewhere in China, including Hong Kong and the Academia Sinica in Taiwan. While a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar in 1995 on India, I further explored the conflicts between the traditional regional civilizations of Islamic and Hindu cultures and modernity. (See in the Contents “About the Author” for further details.)

I have been extensively involved with Post-Gutenberg publishing for well over a decade, and all my books are available worldwide, in printed and electronic form, as will be The Parliament of Poets in November. It will be marketed through over a hundred and fifteen advance review galleys, worldwide, both printed and digital, and through Google Adwords, my website and blog, Facebook, Google+ and other social networking, along with a national author tour and radio interviews, including epic poetry readings and lectures. In January 2009, I was mentioned in Rick Stevens’ Poetry Foundation study, “Technology: Poetry and New Media,” as “a dynamic presence among the advocates of self-publishing and adopting the independent music model of direct purchase from artist to consumer.”

Sincerely yours,

Frederick Glaysher


Filed under Universality

5 Responses to Open Letter to The New York Times Book Review

  1. FG


    It’s way past time for publishing to change, not only in the USA, but worldwide, for the good of readers, and of writers… The transformation is already well advanced.

    The corporate oligarchs and their networks that are strangling free speech and communication have to decide whether they’re with the people, meaning THE READERS, or not. If not, then they don’t merit a reputation they are not living up to, but rather are pedaling backwards, desperately in denial, trying to serve and to prop up the ancien regime.

    Here’s another statement by Sam Tanenhaus of the Book Review’s flawed and antiquated policy, venal, really, since it serves not the readers, but seeks the advertising dollars of corporate publishing:

    “…reviewing only books that our readers can find in bookstores. Your point about merit is well taken, and it’s one we share. Our thinking, which may be old-fashioned, is that with so great a volume of books being published each year by traditional publishers, and with so many imprints available, every book of merit is almost certain to find a home at one or another of those presses.”

    The NY Times Book Review is propping up the old order. Why should the author of “every book of merit” WANT or seek “a home at one or another of those presses”? A completely specious argument in today’s world of ebooks, iPads, Google Nexus 7, and other ereaders, not to mention Ingram’s POD Lightning Source which produces and distributes an EXCELLENT book, soft or hardcover, worldwide, and which is, incidentally, used by the “traditional publishers” to print books they themselves sell!

    It’s time for The New York Times Book Review to catch up with changed reality…

    I am the author of the first epic poem in the English language in 345 years, and the first global, universal epic, and I DON’T want, choose, nor NEED my books to be published by “a traditional publisher,” since they have mercilessly robbed writers blind for centuries, are seeking and have been working on moving their monopoly to the Internet, and have long distorted the entire scope of what receives a hearing with readers.

    In this context, the Book Review is as corrupt, really, as the financial “service” sector, banking, wall street, the music industry prior to collapse, and so on. The Post-Gutenberg Revolution has already swept aside many, allowing the individual more latitude for freedom and independence. Those who cling to the past models are inevitably doomed to go the way of Kodak and the like. Given that The New York Times has chosen the “gated model,” unlike the Huffington Post, which understands much more what’s taking place, though tending to the tabloid, it’s unlikely that the Book Review is going to be able to do anything but continue to defend and justify the status quo ante, yet it has been given the opportunity.

  2. FG

    Not able to take the heat, the New York Times closed comments on the article… so much for open debate and freedom of speech. When it has to do with its bottom line, they’re ready and willing to pull the plug.
    August 27 at 8:56am:

    The New York Times Book Review is as corrupted by dirty publishing, advertising money as the deplorable authors and unethical self-publishers in this article. Its own stated policy on what books it reviews demonstrates the fact, widely recognized by perceptive people for decades. That some self-publishers are unethical does not mean all are. This article is a deceitful attempt on the part of The New York Times to smear self-publishers with one brush and to shore up the corrupt, antedated, traditional publishing model. Like unethical authors manipulating reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, The New York Times Book Review manipulates what books receive a hearing in its pages contingent upon what side of its bread is buttered:

    The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy

  3. FG

    I highly recommended reading two other important articles dealing with these issues that have been published this week.

    Are Amazon reader reviews killing off the critic?

    Can self-publishing buy respect?

    Erin Keane in Salon is more balanced than today’s similar article in The Guardian or Sunday’s The New York Times Book Review, and hers is good advice, I think, for any writer seriously trying to find the Post-Gutenberg model that works for both the reader and the art…

    Here’s the problem. The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, et al., can be and are just as corrupt as some on Amazon, in various ways, through the advertising dollars of publishers, scratching one another’s industry backs, sharing and promoting only the commonly shared points of view, and so forth, as some here have pointed out. Any sophisticated reader knows the filtering worldview, if you will, of TLS, The New York Review of Books, The Boston Review, The Nation, The National Review, and the list goes on endlessly. Each has their NARROW little view and conceptions, precluding anything that’s different, is the truth of it.

    In other words, they’re bought and paid for hacks and deceivers just like Todd Rutherford’s on AMAZON!!! They’re NOT “independent.” Editors who imagine they are the enlightened gatekeepers of civilization deceive themselves and their readers. The Post-Gutenberg Revolution is about opening up beyond that kind of thing.

    The old publishing model IS DEAD. Understand and GET IT. Writing and publishing must be about the READER. Editors trying to control it are still invariably skewing the results for their publishing buddies. It is well known now that traditional publishers are paying people on the Internet to defend and prop up their deficient paradigm.

    Literature 2.0 is predicated upon a different model.

  4. FG

    I have a long history of independent publishing and struggling to understand the implications of the Post-Gutenberg Revolution,if interested:

    The Mission of Earthrise Press

    Publishing in the Post-Gutenberg Age

    eReading, eBooks

  5. FG

    Can self-publishing buy respect?

    SUNDAY, SEP 2, 2012 12:55 PM EDT
    “One thing the indie band in the tour van has going for it is that staying independent in a sometimes-exploitative industry carries with it an assumption of integrity and hard work, and a love for the art that is admirable, even inspiring.”

    The characterization of “the indie band in the tour van” keeps bothering me, because it’s a distortion of reality, a misrepresentation of what’s truly taking place in the Post-Gutenberg Revolution. There’s a flavor of condescension in it, as though everyone and anyone involved with ebooks and self-publishing is in a VW hippie van, smoking pot, or whatever… on LSD? While there might be a few people out there like that, it’s not what’s happening. Serious writers of all genres are making the change because they’re sick and tired of the corruption of corporate publishing and its parasitical destruction of culture.

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