Lutz, chairman of the creative writing department at University of California Riverside, says he started the online Los Angeles Review of Books to make "a statement about the relevance of book reading and the literary arts in the age of new media.'' The site, lareviewofbooks.org, began 12 months ago and has garnered support from around the world. It's also received financial support, including $25,000 from Amazon.com that is being used to pay contributing editors and writers, including T.C. Boyle, Jane Smiley and Jonathan Lethem. The site includes book reviews, essays, an online discussion forum, audio and video of author interviews and events and clips of everyday readers talking about their favorite authors and books.
What's on your nightstand?
I guess I like to have several books going on at the same time. I'm not sure when this habit started. I'm reading a novel by Derek Raymond, He Died With His Eyes Open. He's a British crime novelist. It's tough noir. It's bad people doing bad things.
Are you reading it as an e-book or in traditional book form?
It's in book form. I've never read him before, but Melville House Publishing, a small publisher in New York, has re-released them. (Melville House) is doing some very interesting things. I'm also reading Women Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. They are both from the 1980s. I'm also interested in what's happening in Chinese writing, so I've got Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stores. Liao Yiwu is kind of the Studs Terkel of China. He does interviews and then puts interviews together as monologues.
Can you talk about why you decided to start the Los Angeles Review of Books?
I think the worst thing that has befallen our culture in recent years is that the idea that the Internet is free, and that people should write for the Internet for free and that we shouldn't charge for writing. It has destroyed the ability for most writers to make a decent living. Writers never seemed to manage a great living, but for freelance journalists it could at least work until now. My friends who are freelance journalists have watched their per-word (rate) drop to a tenth of what it used to be. They are in serious trouble, and we are losing a generation of expertise in every field and in every walk of life. It's not just that we don't have as many foreign correspondents, but we certainly are losing the ability for book critics to read for a living as well.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org