Friday, December 11, 2009
Kirkus Reviews RIP
Kirkus Reviews is closing. Founded by Virginia Kirkus in 1933 it served professional book buyers (libraries and independent bookstores, mainly), helping them decide whether or not a title was worth stocking. Kirkus relied on an army of freelance critics, one being your Bloviator years back, who provided short, pithy and often caustic take downs of authors who, apparently, had no shame for the arborcide committed on their behalf. Reviewers had to stick to a rigid format but otherwise were given free rein. Authors would protest and Kirkus dutifully passed on their complaints to reviewers but, like a priest hearing confession, never, ever betrayed their identities; which, of course, only encouraged us to be even nastier.
It wasn't all vitriol. I remember receiving heartfelt thanks from an Australian writer whose history of sugar I had warmly praised. He felt (rightly, I think) his opus had been ignored by the mainstream press and he was grateful to me for the attention. Those thanks were more gratifying to me (believe it or not) than all the fun I had writing mean reviews of the numerous crappy books Kirkus also sent my way.