New LAT books editor David L. Ulin sits for the Three Minute Interview at The Elegant Variation, the site by Mark Sarvas that regularly panned the Times Book Review under Steve Wasserman. Excerpt:
Can you describe something of the selection process that led to your hiring? How extensively were you prodded and probed?
DU: The process was pretty intensive, although I wouldn't characterize it as prodding and probing so much as a series of engaged conversations. First, I was asked to outline my ideas for Book Review; then, I went through a number of interviews with various people up the editorial chain. We talked a lot about the section, but also about autonomy and responsibility, and what it would be like to work together. Running a section like this, within the context of the paper as a whole, is by its nature a collaborative enterprise, and I think it was important for everyone to get a sense of how that kind of relationship would work.
So what's your first order of business when you get yourself settled in?
DU: It's difficult to talk in terms of specifics having not yet begun the job. But the broad answer is this: I want to rethink the notion of a Book Review, to consider how such a section needs to position itself in a world where literature is often marginalized. What is the nature of reading and writing? How are they relevant? And how do we integrate them into our lives? In the most basic sense, this means considering a more diverse range of work for the section, both in terms of the kinds of books that get covered, and the types of writing we showcase. I'd hope, for instance, to see more non-review material - essays, overviews, think pieces - and certainly, there will be a more consistent balance between fiction and nonfiction from week to week. But also, I'd like to take on a wide array of ideas and aesthetics, from traditional literature and scholarship to new media and electronic arts.
Ulin was named as Wasserman's successor on Aug 24.