Published 1 October 20091 October 2009 · Main Posts Reviewing in an age of change Jeff Sparrow Another cheery story about the emerging literary landscape. Columbia English professor James Shapiro’s undergraduate seminar, “The Book Review,” which teaches skills necessary for students to make it as freelance literary critics, is on indefinite hiatus. “There are intellectual reasons to teach the course again,” Professor Shapiro wrote in an email, when the Transom asked if a rumor that he’d discontinued the class was true. “But what’s no longer there is the possibility of training a generation of book reviewers, since, as you know, newspapers around the country are shedding their book reviews, or shrinking these sections.” He added that because so many reviewers are now blogging, freelancers are having a harder time than ever earning anything substantial from their work. “It’s depressing—in large part because I see a lot of talent pass through my classrooms, and little opportunity for those talented students to have the opportunity early on … to review and get paid for it.” In some respects, Shapiro’s is a funny kind of argument. You could make the same case against creative writing. Why teach poetry given that most students will never have the opportunity to get paid for their verse? Still, that’s not really the point. People don’t think about the infrastructure of literature but without a public reviewing culture literary fiction simply won’t function in the same way. Yes, we’ll still have books but literature will no longer perform the same social role, as an art form publicly discussed and debated. Next year, Overland and Meanjin are running a yearlong joint project entitled ‘Reading in an Age of Change’: a series of essays and events examining the massive challenges facing literary culture today. The state of reviewing is part of that. Jeff Sparrow Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland. More by Jeff Sparrow › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202311 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the final day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s most important members get to have their say Editorial Team BORIS A quick guide to another year of Overland, from your trusty feline, Boris. I liked the ginger cat story, though it made my human cry. I liked the talking cat, too, but I’m definitely in the “not wasting my time learning to talk” camp. But reading is good. And writing is fun, though it’s been challenging […] 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 9 November 20239 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s co-chief editor Evelyn Araluen speaks truth to power Editorial Team To my friends and comrades, I’m not sure if there’s language to communicate how this last month has utterly changed me. This time a few weeks ago the busyness and chaos of bricolage arts and academic labour had so efficiently distracted me from my anxiety about the upcoming referendum that I forgot to prepare myself for its inevitable conclusion.