Danny Bloom
Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

How the New York Times books editor sees the world around her

In a recent interview, the books editor of the New York Times Sunday Book Review and other pieces of literary real estate in her bailiwick at the Gray Lady, explained how she decides which books and genres to review, and which genres not to include at all.

Not sure why she is so adamant that under her regime, the genre term of “climate fiction” will never appear in her newspaper, since climate change is mankind’s biggest threat to future survival of the human species, and climate novels mirror and reflect these literary concerns. But, oh well.

But for reasons only the editor can explain, the veteran bookworm vowed to never use the popular genre terms of “climate fiction” or its literary cousin ”cli-fi” as long as she runs the show there. It’s her decision, of course, and she’s standing by it.

Even though the news sections of the Times does use the two terms regularly, as befits a major global publication, the books editor pretends climate change does not exist in her world and that novels about it are not worth reviewing or even reporting on.

Apparently, certain literary genre terms are verboten in the real estate she controls. It’s a restricted area, and only approved American Library Association terms are allowed in. Very American, very narrow-minded, and bordering on literary prejudice.

But it’s a free world, even in a Trump world, and the editor can do as she pleases. She does run a good ship, it must be said.

Since 2013, the Times books section has become more visible and pronounced, and the editor deserves all the credit for this new direction. She’s done a very good job.

When asked by a New York reporter recently which books she likes to read at the current time, the editor replied: “Personally, I’m doing pure escapism in books at the moment.”

Figures. Escapism.

Asked what book captures the current zeitgeist for her now, she replied in a New York second: “”My personal way of engaging with the zeitgeist, in a way, is to disengage with the zeitgeist. With engagement, they can offer you a deeper perspective and a longer view of anything going on in the current moment, whether political, or economic, or environmental. On the other hand, you can just choose to be in a book, and that’s pretty much the only way you can leave, barring expensive travel to an island spa [in Thailand or somewhere]. So personally I’m doing the pure escapism in books, at the moment.”

So this is how the worlds ends, dear readers of the august New York Times. The literary gatekeeper of the paper keeps the nightmare and dystopian visions of climate change and global warming out of her section. For her own personal reasons, apparently, she is not a fan of the term ”climate fiction” or its pesky cousin “cli-fi.”

So there you have it. The world ends not with a bang but with a whimper, as some literary gatekeepers are keen to keep certain genres out of their gaze and pretend that they just don’t see.

Sounds like a Bob Dylan protest song. Hey, didn’t he win a Nobel Prize for literature or something?

For now, don’t expect the New York Times Sunday Book Review to mention “climate fiction” or “cli-fi” very soon. Not until Hell freezes over, I guess.

About the Author
Dan Bloom curates The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. He graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Modern Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Washington, D.C., Juneau, Alaska, Tokyo, Japan and Taipei, Taiwan, he has lived and worked 5 countries and speaks rudimentary French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live for a few more years.