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BY NICO VREELAND

Starting this week, we’re using a new tag, babytown frolics. Basically, it’s the opposite of our Great Reads category. Where the Great Read designation recognizes outstanding literature that the reviewer thinks everyone should read, the babytown frolics tag designates awful literature that the reviewer thinks no one should read.

We’re not trying to pick on authors with this tag. Our contributors pick all their own books to review, nothing is assigned or required. So when a contributor writes a negative review, that reviewer genuinely thought he or she would like the book. Still, we make every effort to be even-handed and objective, and highlight the strengths of a book every bit as much as the weaknesses.

However, when a reviewer uses the babytown frolics tag, that means he or she thinks the book should never have been published. That means something in the book-producing, -marketing, -buying, and -reading process has gone seriously, seriously wrong.

All too often these days, certain publishers care about their bottom line, not just more than the quality of the books they produce, but to the exclusion of quality. A very important role in the publishing world is that of gatekeeper, the entity that keeps utter drivel from reaching the hands of innocent readers. Since publishers don’t seem to want this job anymore, we try to do our part to keep out the drivel. Most of the time we try to use a velvet rope, but sometimes we have to break out the tear gas. “Babytown frolics” is our way of trying to have fun while getting the dirty work done.

Occasionally, we might also drop the tag on an author whose ego and sense of entitlement has outgrown his talent (I’m looking at you, Douglas Preston).

The phrase “babytown frolics” comes from the pilot episode of the very funny animated show, Archer.

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