Dave Itzkoff Ponders His Inner Child

I had a fairly negative reaction to Dave Itzkoff's first science fiction column at the New York Times, but I'm more impressed by his second, particularly because he praises Christopher Rowe's marvelous story "The Voluntary State" and Benjamin Rosenbaum's fine story "Embracing-the-New". Such praise shows taste and thoughtfulness. I also thought Itzkoff's ideas about nostalgia within science fiction are astute, though I am far more wary of nostalgia than he.

I have one major concern with the column, however, and that is Itzkoff's bizarre decision to undermine his credibility by quoting an "online critic". Doesn't he realize he's writing for one of the great newspapers of the world? Why does he stoop to giving credibility to some yahoo with a blog? Itzkoff is a good and clearly intelligent writer, but such a tremendous lapse of judgment within an otherwise interesting column may be a sign not simply of an undigested inner child, but of impending psychosis.


  1. Indeed. Doesn't he know that online criticism is meaningless, and especially to his overlords at the NYT? "Never mind that," Tanenhaus is probably telling him right now. "This 'internet' fad will fade away soon."

  2. This mutual sniping between Cheney and Iztkoff is unseemly, only serving to degrade the actual literary criticism, which is often excellent, and perhaps even the standing of SF/fantasy/spec fiction. I've always admired someone like Joyce Carol Oates, for example, for her restraint in this regard.

  3. I wonder what I have to say to get a mention in the next column?

    I hear Itzkoff still wets the bed...like all McCaffrey fans!

  4. It would appear that Itzkoff has mistaken The Mumpsimus for and esteemed and well-respected venue for literary criticism, rather than pathetic collection of fanboy ravings that it actually is. Fortunately we can turn this to our advantage. All we need to do now is get Cheney a Hugo for Best Fanwriter. The shame that will fall upon Itzkoff's head as a result will be so overwhelming that the NYT will have no choice by to terminate his employment.

  5. HAha ahHAHA ahha ahha AHa


  6. Fun to watch heads turn and opinions of Itzkoff make sea changes when he pays lip-service to some of the younger, up-and-coming writers in the genre. "Maybe he has better taste than we thought!"

    His column seems too calculatedly ageist for me to take very seriously, as though his essential conceit is that we still shouldn't be trusting anyone over the age of thirty. It is too easy to diss nostalgia when it's your elders' nostalgia. Within the Itzkoff Retirement Home, 2040, where everyone reminisces of the days of internet fiascos and flame-wars, I can imagine the furious youth flaming the sepia-toned Ben Rosenbaum and Christopher Rowe short-story collections, and all that old-fogey blog crit nobody reads anymore. ;)

    I'm enjoying your blog, Matt.


  7. Matt, you're such a smartass. ;-)

  8. Lucky bastard.

    So he is quoting along side Matt a new weird inspired, hallucinating junky, immortal rapist with wings in the NY Times?

    Who else could make such a claim? Congrats!

  9. Apart from the issue of sniping at Cheney, do others agree that Itzkoff's column is a major step backwards for recognition of SF as credible literary genre? I didn't always agree with Jonas and found his choices of what to review often too traditional, but at least there was attention paid every month or so in the NYT Sunday Book Review to representative work. Now, we get a page once in a blue moon, and when it finally shows up, it's a minimally cogent fly-by of a compilation of "year's best" short stories? There may not be shelves full of interesting new work, but there is some. I can find some of it on my own, or with the help of blogs like this one, but it would be nice if someone whose job is it to review books for the New York Times, put a little energy into pointing us in the direction of such work.

  10. The New York Times' attitude towards science fiction is the usual lit'ry crapola. You don't see their "Crime" columnist, when she reviews murder mysteries every week, arguing that "These are really, really good books, you guys! Honest! Don't sneer at me!" Even when they still had Jonas he hardly ever reviewed anything that most actual sf readers like because he was always going for the English professor's approval. Screw them.

  11. Sorry to be a thorn, but i think Itzkoff has done a great job. I don't understand why everyone says he is taking us a step backward, i think he is giving the outside literary community an insider's views of the genre. He is saying "look, here are some things you might have to put up with, but you SHOULD put up with them until you fall in love with SF." Who would pick up SF for the first time if he just said "You narrow-minded fools! Can't you see the light?! Your SOOOOOooooOOOO stoopid!"

  12. I hope that this has died down enough and I can post my one coherent thought; I almost posted earlier, but Meghan got it right in her blog so I didn't trample in.

    When The Mumspimus starts running in the NYTBR, please let Dave Itzkoff make occasional appearances.

    This is not a joke and it is not meant to be funny. It is a prognostication.



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