I can remember most things from my childhood, most things from my legal career and most things from my time as a baseball writer. But I go months without thinking of the year or so I spent reviewing books for the New York Post.
It wasn’t a job, really. I was still a full-time lawyer and a budding baseball blogger and the book reviewing was a little sidelight that got me a little money and the ego trip of having my name in a real, hard copy newspaper. How did it come about? Somehow some editor from the Post found me and asked if I’d review sports books for them. Why me? I dunno. I came to find out that they had recently fired all of their full-time book reviewers and had outsourced them to bloggers and other freelancers. I agreed to do them and got a couple hundred bucks and a free book for each one.
In all seven reviews were published and can be read here. I did five others which were not published. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the ones which were “spiked,” to use the parlance of the newspaper business, went unpublished because they were sharply negative reviews. It wasn’t until the last one I did – a book about a woman sailing across the pacific by herself, I believe – that the editor told me that they really preferred not to run sharply negative reviews. I’m not sure why, but I’ll assume advertising from publishing houses. Either way, she stopped emailing me after that one and I didn’t do any more. Which was fine with me, as they were a lot of work for the little money they paid.
What a weird little cul-de-sac in my writing career. Taking a whole book and condensing it into 500-750 words for a newspaper that, with all due respect to its readers, does not normally get accused of catering to a particularly literary demographic.
The weirdest thing about it? I often completely forget I even did it until I come across one of the books I reviewed here in the house someplace and say “oh yeah, THAT’S why I read that book …”