Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pretty Funny, if You Ask Me

What if you were a starving academic writer and you had just published a book about a subject as exciting as the history of salt. Wouldn’t you want to promote your book anyway possible, by way of celebrity endorsements. What if one of the world’s most well known people made it known that he was going to read your book during his much reported vacation? Under most circumstances it would be a dream come true for the author…unless that endorsement came from George W. Bush. Apparently, Mark Kurlansky, the author of Salt: A World History, is furious that his book is tied to the president’s reading list:

What does it mean that George W Bush, a man who has demonstrated little ability for reflection, who is known to read no newspapers and whose headlong charge into disaster after cataclysm has shown a complete ignorance of history, who wants to throw out centuries of scientific learning and replace it with mythical mumbo-jumbo that he mistakenly calls religion, who preaches Christianity but seems to have never read the teachings of the great anti-war activist, Jesus Christ, is now spending his vacation reading my book, Salt: A World History?

Although Kurlanksy invites Bush to learn the great lessons of history revolving around the possession of salt, it’s clear that he doesn’t regard the president as worthy of reading his book. What is it with some writers who are so intent on having their book read by “the right kind of people”? This projection of snobbery in Kurlansky’s editorial is the quickest way to diminish the potential number book buyers. I honestly would actually like to make the time to read his book, being a history buff and all. But when an author shows his true colors and displays a lively antagonism against someone with whom I agree for the most part, it will now be far too difficult for me to read without a sense of disdain for the author in the back of my mind. I’m aware that ‘true’ writers are those who don’t write for the buying public but for the contribution towards the general pool of knowledge. But if that pool of knowledge is reserved for those who agree with the author and not someone who disagrees with him, it isolates the writer from the world at large ever more so. And you wonder why academia in the humanities has become so irrelevant to everyone else?

hat tip to Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner

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