Critical Mass

A new book magazine aims to be the Cliffs Notes of reviews

Phillips has loftier goals, too: He wants Bookmarks to appeal to nonreaders, to "get more people interested in reading." Maybe the magazine will be "a step on the way to reading -- to the library, the bookstore, the book." That's a bit of a stretch, to my mind. I'm not convinced that people who don't read books are going to pick up a magazine about books, even if it promises to make choosing titles easier. But I do think Bookmarks is on to something, as we'll see when its first official issue comes out in October.

Reviews are fun to read, but we don't always trust them. They're too subjective: Who is this person who hated Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated(which, according to Bookmarks, got two stars from Brooke Allen in the Atlantic Monthly) but loved Ali Smith's Hotel World (four stars from Allen)? Bookmarks exposes that subjectivity and attempts to tame it by comparing it with the subjectivity of others. As the preview issue states on Page 3, "Applying ratings to works of art is frustratingly reductionist. It is also helpful in navigating through such a myriad of choices." Bookmarks does not seem to have its own opinion, which is unfortunate, but this may change as Nelson and Phillips become more confident. It does, however, have an angle, and that's more than can be said of most of its competitors.

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