Sunday and 'The Observer' heaps through the letterbox. With so many pages, and one of the more respected literary sections in the UK press, you might expect to learn about new novels. So many are being published. Which excite? What have you found? Go on, you literary professionals. Excite us. Lead the way.
SO how many new novels are reviewed?
Two. Only TWO.
A brief puff for the latest Scott Turow. And a more considered piece on D.B.C Pierre's latest.
OK, I wasn't really expecting my own new novel 'Slippery When Wet' to be reviewed (though why not? My first novel was shortlisted for the Whitbread. This is the next. Worth a squib of consideration, surely?). But I'd like to hear of some new fiction I want to read (the review of the DBCPierre is a turn-off).
Quite pathetic. I went to a recent PEN event in London, a top panel discussing reviewing, so expect nothing less really. Their main concern was with how they dealt with the negative reviews among the stack that come the way of their own books. They admitted that paperbacks get short shrift, and reviewers essentially recycle the hardback reviews of others. Philip Hensher has his list of authors he wants reviewed - presumably it's up to other review pages to find new authors and alert him to them.
Transita, the publisher of my new one, has had reviews for itself as a marketing concept but hardly any for its novels. I know Maia Press, with a strong literary list with some fine names and titles, barely gets a mention in the literary pages.
Rather than sigh at the novels that pile up on their desks - what do they do, cart them round to Oxfam? - can't some reviewers show imagination? Pick a theme? What are new novels saying about the environment? How are cities described nowadays? How are war and terrorism treated in the modern novel? What's the treatment of race like? How is the natural world treated in modern European novels? How do young American and British novelists compare? How are writers asserting regional identities?
What a boon for novelists and readers it would be, if literary editors suddenly dcided that literature - and not the small literary coterie - really mattered.
Over to the latest issue of 'The London Review of Books'. Do they lead the way? How many new novels do the review?
One. Only one. The new Houellebecq - and that tacked on to a review of a book about Houellebecq. Boy.Tthey're really pushing the boat out.
Over to you. Read any good novels lately?