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Is it really the “New York Review of Each Other’s Books”?

Dan Stone – Measuring the extent of self-reviewing at the New York Review of Books from 1963-2022: “Since its 1963 founding, the New York Review of Books has been considered a bit clubby. Richard Hofstadter’s quip that it ought to be called the “New York Review of Each Other’s Books” is the most enduring line on the topic. Using metadata from all 59 years of the NYRB archives—spanning some 1,228 issues containing 17,268 articles about 31,579 books—I measured just how much of a “Review of Each Other’s Books” it has been. In short, my view is that Hofstadter was right. A hefty portion of the books reviewed in the NYRB have been contributors’ books. Furthermore, most of the contributors have had their own books reviewed. But there are a number of different ways of adding the numbers up. Each says something slightly different about the intersection between contributors and the reviewed. I look at:

  • The proportion of reviews of books written by prior, recent and contemporaneous contributors
  • The proportion of articles written by contemporaneously-reviewed contributors
  • The relationship between the number of reviews a contributor has written and the chances the contributor has had a book reviewed

If you are not familiar with the NYRB, you should know it is a tabloid-sized magazine that comes out about every two weeks. Each issue features a series of longish reviews of mostly books and freestanding essays. What gets reviewed generally ranges from the highbrow4 to the upper-middlebrow.5 Instead of having a formal writing staff, the editors turn to outside contributors, some more frequently than others. Back in the early days of the magazine, its roster of writers read as a Who’s Who of New York Intellectuals…”

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