One Square Inch of Alaska

Back in the Fifties, a cereal company began a promotion offering one square inch of Alaska in exchange for box tops. Box tops were an important currency then; since they had to be mailed to Michigan, it involved the assistance of a parent, usually mom. Like Donna Reed, Everymom swirled through the kitchen in crinoline on her way to the miracle icebox. There she would pause, genuflect, and contemplate all the products, fabrics, cleansers, and devices of the modern kitchen. Science in the post war years had clearly conquered drudgery. As kids we could only stare in grimy awe at the efficiency of it all. So it is with book reviewing on blogs. The blogosphere is the miracle product of maturing technology; bloggers review books sent by publishers or borrowed from the library, bought or left behind in airline terminals. And they provide this service at no cost to you.

The conversation about bloggers as reviewers has erupted with several concurrent themes; these include: the reflexive ‘are bloggers really important’ question, the attitude of major publishing houses toward reviews online, and the more philosophical ‘should we review books at all.’ The fun part of this discussion lies in the inherent spontaneity blogs provide; everyone has an opinion. Mine is this; bloggers and their reviews are important to the author and to readers. Are they important to publishers? Who knows? That goes to marketing, and while book reviews are integral to pushing sales, the reviewer isn’t an active part of that process.

Beyond reviews, blogs are a platform for discussing authors and their work. A case in point, Lee Goldberg posted a lengthy comment about his disappointment with Ken Bruen’s novel THE GUARDS. This ignited a discussion in the back blogs not only at Lee’s blog, but Sarah Weinman’s as well. It’s great exposure for the writer, all because Lee expressed a dissenting opinion on a book generally viewed as one of the best crime novels of the year. I haven’t read THE GUARDS, but now I’m going to.

Back to the box tops. Over time I accumulated three square inches of Alaska; I consumed about fifteen thousand bowls of Shredded Wheat in pursuit of my CALL OF THE WILD dreams of dog sledding across the barren wasteland my OFFICIAL DEED entitled me to. I think Nabisco was the big winner in this transaction; it’s always a dance with the devil when corporate America comes calling.

Thus co-opted at age nine, I’m warier this time. The little blogs that could are racing forward; we hold one square inch of Alaska now, our tiny flag is planted. The giants peering into Lilliput simply want to befriend us. Remember, they mean us no harm. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t Bogart the Shredded Wheat, my friend.


  1. ” Back in the Fifties, a cereal company began a promotion offering one square inch of Alaska in exchange for box tops.”

    As recently as five years ago, a square inch of Alaska could be bought — for cash, not box tops — at The Santa Claus House, a genial tourist trap 15 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The deal may still be available, but we didn’t stop in on our recent return visit to Alaska.

    I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity five years ago because at the time my wife and I already owned 1.2 acres, complete with house…

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