Pool, Gail 1946-

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Pool, Gail 1946-


Born July 4, 1946, in New York, NY; married; children: one son. Education: Harvard University, B.A., M.A., M.L.S.


Home—Cambridge, MA. E-mail—[email protected]


Freelance journalist. Boston Review, Boston, MA, former editor; Radcliffe Quarterly, former book review editor; Wilson Library Bulletin, former book review editor; Radcliffe Seminars, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, former instructor in writing for publication.


National Book Critics Circle.


(Editor, and author of introduction) Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2000.

Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Women's Review of Books, Chronicle of Higher Education, Christian Science Monitor, Wilson Library Bulletin, Cleveland Plain Dealer, St. Petersburg Times, Kansas City Star, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Former book columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, Wilson Library Bulletin, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the San Diego Union-Tribune.


Gail Pool is a freelance journalist and editor. She studied classics at Harvard University as an undergraduate, then went on to earn master's degrees in library science and creative writing. She has traveled extensively, living in such diverse locations as London, New Guinea, and San Francisco. Over the course of her career, Pool has served as the editor of the Boston Review, taught a course in writing for publication as part of the Radcliffe Seminars at Harvard University, and written a book column for several periodicals. Pool is the editor of Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories, released in 2000, and the author of Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, which was published in 2007.

Other People's Mail takes a look at the way that, despite the general decline in the popularity of writing letters, there remains strong interest in any type of story that is written in the epistolary format. The form saw its peak during the eighteenth century, but continues to thrive, with the format itself often serving as a commentary that helps to clarify the point of the story. As editor of this collection, Pool credits the human tendency toward voyeurism for the popularity of the epistolary tale, noting that reading another person's mail remains a delicious temptation to which many otherwise honest people are likely to succumb. The book includes seventeen stories from a range of writers and is the first anthology of this type to be published. Steve Weinberg, in a review for the Boston Globe, found the book to be "a unique and important anthology," and noted that "Pool's highly informative introduction explores the nature of letter fiction."

In Faint Praise, Pool addresses a number of issues regarding the institution of the book review. As a frequent reviewer herself, and someone who has served as an editor responsible for a review publication, Pool mines her own experiences in sharing her concerns with readers. The book is a strong admonishment to those individuals working in the review end of journalism. She states that book reviews are frequently assigned to the least appropriate writers, and that editors often gravitate toward the wrong books to be reviewed, as well. She finds the majority of reviews to be overly and inappropriately complimentary to the books in question, often a result of the editor having assigned the review to a writer with a bias in favor of the author being reviewed. After listing her complaints, Pool offers suggestions for ways in which the review process might be improved upon, including the institution of a code of ethics that reviewers would be encouraged to maintain. A Publishers Weekly critic praised it as a "passionate insistence on the importance to literary culture of the serious, informed critique, which is increasingly endangered." In a contribution to Kirkus Reviews, one writer noted that "considerable research enriches her jeremiad with pertinent examples from American literary history." A reviewer for Internet Bookwatch called Pool's work "an impressively insightful, deftly written, accessibly articulate, expertly knowledgeable, and decidedly analytical survey of the multifaceted and complex world of book reviewing today."



Internet Bookwatch, September, 2007, review of Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2007, review of Faint Praise.

Library Journal, January 1, 2005, "The Art of the Letter," p. 174.

New Republic, December 10, 2007, James Wolcott, "Critical Condition," p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2007, review of Faint Praise, p. 46.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2007, review of Faint Praise.

Writer, December, 2007, "A Praiseworthy Book on Book Reviewing," p. 44.


Boston Globe Online,http://www.boston.com/ (October 27, 2007), Steve Weinberg, "Constructive Criticism Puts Book Reviewing in Perspective."

Other People's Mail Web Site,http://home.comcast.net/gailpool (May 1, 2008).

Reviewing Books,http://www.reviewingbooks.com/ (February 25, 2008), profile of Gail Pool.

University of Missouri Web site,http://press.umsystem.edu/ (February 25, 2008), profile of Gail Pool and review of Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories.