In a time when many would contend the world of literature is in decline, Tom Lutz, professor of creative writing, has created a haven for the lovers of words, avid readers and eager knowledge seekers. The literary review journal, Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), was released recently and has garnered much attention since. After spending some time on the site it becomes clear what is drawing readers by the masses—LARB offers something for all kinds of readers, allows visitors to explore their love for literature and has a sleek and incredibly accessible design.
Lutz, the founder of LARB and current editor-in-chief, was deeply concerned about the rapid deterioration of sunday supplement book reviews, as well as the negative changes in the field of journalism. But the idea came to him only after he was offered a job as an editor for another literary journal. Lutz debated whether or not to take the position and spoke with colleagues about the matter. Professor of creative writing Chris Abani asked Lutz why he doesn’t just start a literary journal of his own. In an interview with the Highlander, Lutz said, “And that [comment] got me thinking—if I was going to do a publication what would it be? I decided that this was most needed, right now, some kind of reinvention and reinvigoration of the review of books.”
LARB offers extensive reviews, essays and interviews with authors. Unlike other literary reviews that may discriminate against certain genres, LARB offers reviews of a wide range of genres such as poetry, film, travel and even food.
Organized and easy to navigate, the ‘Genres’ page lists tons of genres, from literary fiction to sports to noir, that provide links to any related articles, book reviews, interviews, etc. The design also pays close attention to detail that enhances the visitor’s experience. For example, each genre has a literary quote to accompany it. The ‘Humor’ section features a quote by Jane Austen, which says, “One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.” Encompassing a broad range of genres is one of the strengths of LARB. Lutz said, “We have a lot more science fiction, noir and a lot more young adult than someplace like The New York Review. I want a sports book section that people who read sports books can go to.”
Similar to the ‘Genres’ page, visitors can navigate the website by searching through the authors listed alphabetically. Each author page directs visitors to a brief bio, as well as a list of publications they may have written for LARB, or reviews others may have written on their work. LARB also offers a personal touch to some authors through lengthy interviews or the lighthearted survey titled, “The Questionnaire,” which offers brief insight into writers who may have contributed to LARB.
The design of LARB is not only aesthetically pleasing, but has many neat features. The website boasts an extensive recommendation tool on the side of the page that directs readers to similar articles. Say you’re reading an interview with filmmaker David Cronenberg. Some of the suggested articles include a review of Roger Ebert’s memoir, a review of Steve Boman’s film school memoir, and several other interviews, essays and reviews. The beauty of this recommendation system lies in its vortex-like ability to suck readers deeper into the website, leading them to other similar pieces and exposing them to new, yet familiar subjects and themes. If you spend long enough browsing through the list of recommendations, you’ll probably find yourself coming full circle back to where you started, but now with a wealth of newly found information and hopefully a new book to check out.
Lutz has high hopes for the future LARB. He said, “I’m an idealist, and I think that the more good reading people do, the better it is for the world. I’m a kind of proselytizer for the literary arts. In the long run, if this site becomes a lasting institution doing that, I’ll be very happy.”