Forget the stupid, New York Post–invented nonissue of whether Michael Chabon's new novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, is anti-Semitic. The real news is that the Times' Arts & Leisure section put a big, splashy profile of Chabon on the front page yesterday. Not an article about Chabon's screenwriting career, not his thoughts on the new Spider-Man movie, not a piece about some unannounced Michael Chabon musical-theater action-adventure set in the Ural Mountains. No, this was a straight-up books piece, a nice story in which Chabon and writer Patricia Cohen travel to Sitka, Alaska, the frigid Alaska town Chabon used as the basis for his imaginary Jewish homeland.
Between this piece and Michiko Kakutani's front-pager on political books last weekend, has Arts & Leisure suddenly become a home for in-depth books coverage?
Before this double-whammy, the Sunday section was rarely the place to go for books news; the last author to get front-page A&L treatment was Philip Roth, subject of a Chip McGrath profile a year ago. New Arts & Leisure editor Scott Veale, who replaced Ariel Kaminer in February, pointed out in an interview this morning that these kinds of profiles used to run in the Times Magazine, "but they don't seem to as often anymore." He adds, "As long as we stay away from the Book Review's territory, we're more free to do this kind of story now."
Should two stories in two weeks be considered a shot across the bow? Veale says the scheduling was a coincidence — "kind of unfortunate, really." Nonetheless, that sound you hear is a hundred book publicists scrambling to take Veale out to lunch.