Sunday, March 21, 2004


I haven't gotten around to this yet, but changes have happened in the Fanfare section of the Sunday Commercial Appeal that I really am glad to see. The stultifying, oppressive hand of Frederic Koeppel has been lifted and new things are happening. Koeppel has long dominated the "arts" side of the paper with his elitist literary tastes. He prefers to review books that might sell a dozen or so copies here in Memphis than cater to the unwashed masses and their mass-market tastes. That's changing.

The first sign was the appearance of Jon W. Sparks' reviews of audio tapes of books. I'm guessing he fills his driving time with 'em and thought "why not review 'em too?" Just seeing this was good news. I imagine Koeppel groaned.

There are fewer books being featured likely to be read by no one, seemingly put in there to either uplift the dreary, non-art-inspired masses or to cater to a narrow slice of the Commercial Appeal's readership. That's good, but we still see too many books reviewed because the author is in town or because Corey Messler read them. It also seems that two pages were taken out, reducing Fanfare from eight pages to six. Put them back!

If it were me, I'd love to see the paper try reviewing some non-fiction books on the popular science front. There are plenty of books that explain the world around us in an entertaining but informative way, and it would be nice to see them highlighted once in a while for education-deprived folks in Memphis to check out. More genre fiction, too.

Now we also have a "Page Turners" feature. The folks in the CA research department are writing short reviews of a number of mysteries and crime thrillers. It's not my taste, but obviously lots of Memphians read them. So far, I've found Shirley Sykes to be their best reviewer. I hope she does more.

Some of the syndicated columns have disappeared, but that's no problem except for the magazine roundup.

Hmmm. A pretty rambling ramble here. Let's sum up: Koeppel back-seated? Hooray! Fewer pages? Boo. New reviewers? More yay!

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