Champion v. Tanenhaus, at Book Expo America:
I stood up and pointed out to Tanenhaus that the list of judges was mostly male and that this reflected a continuing trend by the NYTBR as a whole to give the majority of its reviews to men over women. I also asked how a weekly book review section that continued to prioritize nonfiction over fiction could legitimately put out a “Best Contemporary Fiction” list. I then revealed myself to be the Tanenhaus Brownie Watch guy and playfully asked why I hadn’t received a single thank you note for the brownies. “Is this a New York thing?” I asked.
Tanenhaus took considerable ire at this, booming into the microphone with all the joie de vivre of a stale jelly bean, “Where do we begin?” On the judges list question, he pointed out that the original list of 200 had a more equitable balance between men and women. But that women writers declined to be involved with the project more than men. He was again defensive about the NYTBR, suggesting that “we don’t fill quotas” and, instead of responding to my points, declared the NYTBR the best book review section in the nation. (Of course, had I been permitted to interject on the fiction coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle or even the Baltimore Sun, I would have. But Tanenhaus clearly wanted to evade the issue.)
As to the question of the brownies, Tanenhaus boomed into the mike:
“I DON’T HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE BROWNIES!”
Am I the only one who didn’t realize Ed was actually sending brownies to the New York Times? I thought it was figurative.