As you will have noticed, we’ve had something of a hiatus at The Melbourne Review of Books. In part this was to give everyone a break, in part, it was to take some time to think about things and reassess what it is that we are trying to do here.
The Melbourne Review of Books is entirely volunteer run, and in an attempt to keep up with perceived notions about the need for more and more content, many of those involved have experienced some burnout. This no doubt played a part in a general deterioration of review quality of late, and allowed material to slip by the editorial process that ought not have slipped by. To this end we are going to move forward with a couple changes of tack.
- Reduce the volume of content. We cannot commit to publishing something every day, and those who are interested in writing reviews or essays won’t be expected to produce something each week.
- Ensure that publishers are aware that we cannot review every book we are sent. We genuinely attempted to do this, and although a few books slipped through without review, mostly we were successful. However, with the reliance on volunteer work, for now, we simply can’t commit to this. If we can’t easily find a reviewer for a book, we’ll attempt to pass it along to other book bloggers or reviewers. We’ll notify publishers whenever we pass books along elsewhere.
In terms of who we are and what we want to do, our aim is to provide a place for intelligent but accessible discussion of books without prejudicing genres. There is plenty of flippant and offhanded commentary around the internet. There is also plenty of intelligent but academic discussion, which is largely inaccessible and uninteresting to anyone without a post-grad degree in lit. We wanted to run a middle-road, thoughtful, but not esoteric. This was always what we wanted, but we’ve drifted somewhat from our initial path. We also, in the absence of yet being able to pay reviewers, hope to provide a place where people can get some practise writing non-fiction essays, reviews and editorials with valuable editorial feedback as part of the process. That is all we can offer in return for the hard work of reading and reviewing books, and hopefully it goes some way to providing recompense.
And why did I pick a Chagall as the header image? I suppose I might have in part been thinking about The Weepies Painting by Chagall, and how sometimes rain falls when needed. I think we did need to stop running around for a bit, and a passing internet shower gave us the excuse needed to stop, take stock, and take a look around. Hopefully we’ll move forward with the benefit of some lessons learned.