This morning's Washington Post brings news of the end of Book World as a stand-alone section. Book reviews and news about books will continue in the Style and Outlook sections.
The section never really paid for itself--I know because I was a writer and editor there for about a dozen years--often running no advertising at all beyond the classifieds in the back. But for years, even though Book World lost money, the people who ran The Post supported it, believing one of the marks of a great newspaper was a stand-alone book section.
Times change. Now the failing health of the industry means newspapers can't afford grand gestures that cost money. It's too bad, and one more sign of the decline of the importance of reading in our culture.
Working at Book World was--for a while at least--a dream job. I got paid to read books and to write about them. All the same, for all that I enjoyed it, I'm not sure that in the end it was nearly as satisfying as writing fiction. (Which isn't as satisfying as writing it and seeing it published.)
When I dropped out of college in the late Sixties to go work in a record store near Washington's Dupont Circle, the manager was fond of asking how it felt to be in show business.
Sometimes, working at The Post, I used to think being an editor in Book World was like playing piano in a brothel. We made a lot of noise, but the real action was going on upstairs.