being reviewed does beat being executed

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Yesterday, with great pleasure, I read the epigraph to Elizabeth Gumport’s short essay on book reviews in the already venerable n+1, the literary magazine out of Brooklyn. The epigraph is from an 1807 editorial in the long gone, but once venerable Monthly Anthology and Boston Review: The office of a reviewer is, in a republic of letters, as beneficial and necessary, though as odious and unpleasant, as that of an executioner in a civil state. This is fun, of course, as long as we don’t have to think too seriously about the death penalty or about book reviewing. There is, I’ll admit, something unpleasant enough about the business — all of us who have received bad notices know it, and we at the Los Angeles Review of Books are aware of it every day, now that we’re editing a bunch of reviews, worrying about our multiple responsibilities to writers, critics, readers, the record. But one thing I’ll wager: being reviewed does beat being executed.

more from Tom Lutz at the LA Review of Books here.

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