Welcome to Secrets of the Book Critics, in which books journalists from around the US and beyond share their thoughts on beloved classics, overlooked recent gems, misconceptions about the industry, and the changing nature of literary criticism in the age of social media. Each week we’ll spotlight a critic, bringing you behind the curtain of publications both national and regional, large and small.
This week we spoke to NYLON Executive Editor, Kristin Iversen
Book Marks: What classic book would you love to have reviewed when it was first published?
Kristin Iversen: I think I’m missing that common impulse to be the first person to do something or put my mark somewhere; being prompt has never really been my thing. Which is maybe why my inclination here is to pick The Lover, since Duras seems to share my aversion to timeliness. And then also, it’s a book I return to, over and over, and so would love to spend even more time with. (In this hypothetical situation, though, it should be said, I’d undoubtedly be late handing in my review.)
BM: What unheralded book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
KI: It’s only just come out, so I’m hopeful that it will change from being under-heralded to justly praised: Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love, by Anna Moschovakis. It’s subtle in its wholesale devastation, and is a pretty perfect meditation on grief and loss and being a woman. I love it.
BM: What is the greatest misconception about book critics and criticism?
KI: I don’t know how much most people really think about book critics (probably very little?), but I do know that people seem to think I spend all my time reading, and that I have therefore read everything. But, I don’t spend all my time reading, and am regularly reminded that I haven’t, not really, read all that much. Book critics are a bit of a disappointment, I guess is what I’m saying. I’m okay with that, though, because I still have fun with the whole thing.
BM: How has book criticism changed in the age of social media?
KI: Someone who worked in criticism before the advent of social media would do a better job of answering this, because it’s all I’ve ever known. I will say that one thing social media makes more clear is the interconnectedness between people working in publishing, criticism, and authors. The boundaries are far more amorphous than many might assume, and I’m sure it was always this way, but that, perhaps, in the past, those relationships were not so easily traceable.
BM: What critic working today do you most enjoy reading?
KI: Oh, so many. To name a few: Vinson Cunningham, Doreen St. Felix, Josephine Livingstone, Lauren Oyler, Durga Chew-Bose, Sarah Nicole Prickett, and Dayna Tortorici. I’ll read anything any of them have written.
Kristin Iversen is the executive editor at NYLON.