"Like a proper English country house," writes Terrence Rafferty with the opening words of the opening essay of the January 15 New York Times Book Review. The essay, properly, is a review of proper British author Julian Barnes's latest proper novel. The proper English country house described could be the New York Times itself.
The Times is against imperialism, I guess (or maybe just the way it's fought), but it sure conducts itself with a proper imperialistic view of the world, in a proper British imperialistic mode. The Book Review reviews the world (select segments of it) as if it owns it.
And so we get, for starters, not one but two reviews of snooty snobby Brit novelists (Anita Brookner the other); a review of the debut novel of the privileged daughter of a famous white South African playwright (good bloodlines, what?); a review of a book by an Australian novelist; and (to change things up) a review of a novel by a Palestinian. Palestine IS a focus of empire, a problem it seeks to solve.
Anything missing in this line-up? Any American novels reviewed-- in the entire issue? Not one!
There can be no future for the literature of this continent in a publication whose gaze is so fixed in the opposite direction, and is so out of touch with the vast bulk of its populace.