From my dear friend John Wilson:

Ever since I “discovered” book reviews, when I was in high school, I have been in love with this simple but infinitely flexible genre. Much of my adult life has been devoted to scouring publishers’ catalogues and other sources of information on forthcoming books, reviewing books myself and assigning them for review, editing reviews and seeing them into print, and of course reading thousands of reviews over the decades — a practice I will continue as long as I have my faculties. […] 

At the same time, I feel some reservations. When Nadya Williams invited me to lead off this series, she spoke of “the value/virtue of book reviews in this day and age,” and she added: “My thought is that we can encourage much more productive discussions about cultural crises using books than via provocative op-eds.” But I don’t want to encourage more discussion about “cultural crises”; in fact, I think much of our public conversation, across the ideological spectrum, is characterized by an obsessive focus on “cultural crises.” I’m not saying that these “crises” are simply manufactured (though certainly some of them are). Rather, I believe that endless talk about these crises characterizes public discourse to an unhealthy and extremely tedious degree. Of course, that is apparent not only in op-eds and essays and books claiming to unpack these “crises” but also in reviews. And yet the blessed range of reviewing ensures that such voices do not dominate. 

Amen to all this. But goodness, is it difficult to get many editors interested in books that aren’t somehow implicated in (or can somehow be shoehorned into) the American crisis discourse.