Matt Bell reads (a lot). Matt Bell writes (a lot). Matt Bell drinks beer (no comment - but we'll take donations for Matt as well). This was enough to get Matt Bell started writing reviews with NewPages a year or so ago. But this wasn't enough for Matt. He wanted more, and as we weren't the least bit abashed in taking advantage of that energy, crowned him Book Review Editor.
As editor, Matt is large and in charge of the section: recruiting and screening prospective reviewers, managing content, and reading for first edit. He does this in addition to keeping up with his own writing, having published numerous short stories and now working on his first novel, as well as maintaining a bill-paying job and a personal life in there somewhere that includes his wife, Jessica.
I don't know how he does it, but given the immediate ramp-up of the book reviews, and the positive feedback we've received thus far, it is definitely working. I asked Matt to explain what he sees as the role of book reviews for NewPages readers, and his role as a reviewer as well as editor:
"When I write my own reviews, my goals are to promote good writing, to explain why I think a book is worth the reader's time, and to dive in critically to try and expose some of what makes the book work. In editing other people's reviews, the goals are similar: I want to bring out the strengths in each reviewer's own style and to help them write as strongly and as clearly as possible.
"Overall, I want the NewPages book review section to be a place that is unapologetically enthusiastic about books, especially the great work coming out of the smaller presses. Every day I read news stories about declining readerships, the death of the short story, the relegation of poetry to academia, and I can't help but disagree. I think this is a great time to be a reader. There are so many good writers out there, and it's our job to keep giving those people the critical attention their work deserves.
"I truly believe that fiction in general and the short story in particular is in as good a shape today as it has ever been. Perhaps its commercial potential has diminished, but its artistic potential is off the charts. I'm less personally knowledgeable about the state of poetry, but I think excellent writing is being done there as well, at least judging from some of the reviews we've published lately and the enthusiasm of those reviewers."
Matt Bell lives in Ann Arbor, MI. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as Barrelhouse, Juked, Caketrain, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and is upcoming in No Colony and Hobart. He can be found online at www.mdbell.com.
If you are a reader/writer interested in reviewing for NewPages, contact Matt Bell (newpages.matt-at-gmail.com) for book reviews and/or Denise Hill (denisehill-at-newpages.com) for literary magazine reviews.
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