It was back in 2006 that I first mentioned the two types of Rachel Donadio stories you could find in the New York Times Book Review. On a good day, you’d get sharply reported articles like the backstory on J. Robert Lennon‘s Happyland or a dispatch from the Jewish Book Network auditions. On a not-so-good day, it seemed as if she would just flip through her Rolodex and collect some new quotes on a tired perennial like the alleged death of book parties or the state of the literary feud… or yesterday’s back-pager on what’s up with author blurbs—how hard it can be to get one, and how much some writers agonize over giving or not giving one.
How lame a topic is this? It is so lame a topic that Salon already covered the territory two weeks ago, in the traditional Salon manner: They found a published author willing to complain about life’s unfairness. At least Donadio’s version isn’t whiny, but it still doesn’t give her much of an exit line.
Yes, exit line: Donadio, it was announced a few weeks back, is leaving the Book Review to become the Times bureau chief in Rome. It could be a productive shift, if some of her previous features, like last year’s review of Gomorrah or the profile of Antonio Monda, are any indication. With any luck, she’ll continue to make connections to the literary world from her new Italian outpost—it’d be great to see more stories that play to her strength of laying out a clear, navigable path through unfamiliar territory without losing sight of the “strangeness” of her surroundings.