A month ago I was in a state of despair. Oh, excuse me for being weak-minded, but when I buy the Sunday Asbury Park Press at my 7-Eleven, the first thing I read (really, and before the comics) is Anne Bendheim’s column on “What You’re Reading.” This is a review each week on what a reader submits that he/she finds interesting. I’ve had seven reviews published there.
I don’t know how many of you read Sunday’s Asbury Park Press, but you may have noticed on June 26 that the “Tell Us What You’re Reading” column was missing. I fired off a shocked e-mail to Anne, who edits the page. (Anne describes herself as not being on Facebook and “the only person in New Jersey without a cell phone.”) I wrote, “This page is the only voice of the people, except for reader rants on the Op-Ed page.”
She replied, “I had no choice but to pull the column. I had no reader responses for more than six weeks. I was reduced to calling my friends for their suggestions—and I ran out of friends.” Isn’t that an outrageous state of affairs?!
Now, Anne was suggesting that “it might be the case” for the column to be reinstated if she were deluged with thumbnail book reviews. She’d need four or five in advance.
It’s a simple process to send an e-mail to email@example.com about the book you are reading, and a short description of the book and why you like it. Include your name and town, and put “What I’m Reading” in the subject line.
I wrote a note to the two score names on our Writers’ Circle mailing list, suggesting they stop and send a review now. I told them, “C’mon. We’ve read Peter Pan, and we know Tinker Bell will live if we all clap our hands — and post a book review.” That done, I sent a note to the Monmouth County writers’ group on Yahoo! I sent individual e-mails to others I knew were literate. And then I sat down to scribble a review of Caleb Carr’s The Italian Secretary.
The next day, Anne sent me a note, saying she “just got a new cat and named her Tinker Bell.” Is that a coincidence or what? A week went by with no review … and then it appeared. The following week, my Caleb Carr review appeared. I won’t take credit for this, but in a small way I hope I’m responsible for bringing back interactive reader-newspaper communications on the subject of books we like.