The San Francisco Chronicle launched a book blog this week, Bookmarks. To welcome Bookmarks to the literary blogosphere, we emailed books editor John McMurtrie, who told us all about the blog -- or blogue, or blague, depending.
JC: Did the Chronicle blog about books before?
JM: No, there were no previous book blogs. But I'd like to think someone in the 19th century was compiling a blogue. The word blog, for me, still calls to mind "blague," meaning joke in French. So I hope to keep the thing lighthearted.
JC: How will Bookmarks fit into the paper's book coverage?
JM: I see it as supplementing what we run in our weekly Books section. It'll give us the room to run interviews and excerpts, cover book-related news and generally comment on anything we come across that seems worthy of sharing with our readers.
JC: What book blogs – and other blogs – do you read?
JM: I'm a loyal reader of Jacket Copy (naturally), and I like these: The New Yorker's Page-Turner, Book Riot, the New York Daily News' Page Views, the New York Review of Books' NYR Blog, Lapham Quarterly's Deja Vu, the Guardian's Books blog, the London Review of Books blog and Pierre Assouline's La republique des livres (for all you fromage-eating francophiles). I'm sure there are many others worth mentioning.
JC: You write that Bookmarks will highlight literary events. Does San Francisco's literary community do anything different than the standard bookstore readings that you'll be blogging about?
JM: There is the annual LitQuake festival, which I'm sure many of your readers know about, and 826 Valencia and the San Francisco Writers' Grotto host regular events. And any number of impromptu events pop up in the area. One event I'm looking forward to is the opening, in July, of Adobe Books' new home in San Francisco's Mission District. The store is now being run — innovatively — as a collective.
JC: Will anyone be helping you out on the blog? For the hopeful writers out there, are you taking blog pitches?
JM: At this point, it's a staff blog, but that might change. Just minutes ago, as it happens, our venerable arts critic, Kenneth Baker, walked by my desk. He reviews for us regularly, and I encouraged him to blog as well. (So you're on notice, Kenneth!)
JC: Your first post was an interview with Mark Bowden, author of "The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden." The book is being released in paperback, something book sections often don't get a chance to cover. Does Bowden have a special connection to San Francisco? Or was there another reason for the interview?
JM: We reviewed the book, favorably, and I wanted to draw some extra attention to it since the subject has been explored elsewhere — especially in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" — and the topic of terrorism is, sadly, always current. And I do hope to cover many more paperbacks, for the reason you cite.
JC: Is there anything coming up on Bookmarks you can tell us about?
JM: I plan to write about "Holy S---: A Brief History of Swearing." Fear not: it's a very smart — and funny – book by someone who holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature from Stanford. Her name is Melissa Mohr. Oxford University Press has published it, proving that academic presses often have a sense of humor. I'd also like to update something I covered in the section a couple years ago: it seems nearly every book that's set in the Bay Area is required by publishers to feature the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover. To see all the various covers in a gallery is fascinating.