How I Spent My Summer Vacation

My review of Dosse's dual bio of Deleuze & Guattari appears in the new issue of Bookforum but isn't available online. But this piece on a new volume on Edward Said went up the other day at The Barnes and Noble Review.

Meanwhile, this one on Hitch-22 * went up just this morning at The National, which also ran my review of Sloterdijk's Rage and Time not long ago.

* In the Hitchens piece, it says that Hitchens was attending Cambridge at an age when Orwell was working as a policeman in Burma. This is a bit off. For while Hitchens did attend the Leys School at Cambridge (this is the subject of one chapter of the book) by the age that Orwell was in Burma, he was at Oxford. I have asked that this be corrected. In any case, the basic point isn't affected by this mistake.

This week's column is about the death last month, of Martin Gardner. The title, "Beyond the Fields We Know," is a phrase from Lord Dunsany that Gardner would draw on from time to time. (It's easy to imagine some sad little pedant reading him and saying, "He should stick to his field of knowledge, but I can't seem to figure out what that is.")

I had wanted to do something in honor of Gardner sooner than this week, but dealing with Book Expo America -- here and here -- came first.

Although I didn't say so in the column, this BEA was made somewhat more interesting by virtue of spending part of it doing a bit of mentoring to The New Inquiry crew, who were attending for the first time. It was good to be able to see the event through their eyes.

A number of people at BEA expressed their appreciation for my column about the New Press and how it is handling its new book by Michael Bellisles. I went around the New Press booth but my encounter with the one person there was pretty forgetable.

Unfortunately, someone else reported that the press was "very happy" about my column, on the grounds that it had created "attention" for a "controversial author." This left me feeling almost physically ill for a couple of hours. Michael Bellisles is not a "controversial" historian. He is a disgraced one. The press has elected to promote him in a dishonest fashion, and treating that column as some kind of publicity boon is evidence of profound meretriciousness.

Once in a while a familiar expression will suddenly feel deeply meaningful. Just so, in this case, with "beneath contempt."
June 11, 2010 9:55 AM | | Comments (4)



The ladies (and gentlemen, too, now, it seems) of The New Inquiry are an amazing bunch. I have really been personally and amateurly (as opposed to professionally) touched by my budding relationship with them. And I have you to thank for that. Once I get over me recent blogging obsession with idiotic right-wingers, and get my family moved at the end of the month, I want to spend some time concentrating on them.

Oh, and awesome review article on Said's biographer. I have his memoir, and it reminded me of one of Podhoretz's autobiographical works, in which he routinely tears old friends apart.

We need a better way to refer to the New Inquiry crew. Somehow "The New Inquirers" doesn't feel right, possibly because it sounds like they are competing with a supermarket tabloid.

"Inquirians" is not a real word and yet "The New Inquirians" has a certain cachet.

The New Inks?

And what did mentoring them about the BEA constitute? If I recall the Javitz (painfully) and the BEA (less painfully), the important aspects are:

1) Be financially prepared to arrive and depart by taxi unless you plan on --

2) NOT taking anything heavy (you know, um, like books) to or from the Javitz -- because the walk to the nearest subway station will be a death march.

3) Hang out at the very end of the conference with a toddler, when everyone is dismantling their displays, because the kid will make out like a bandit. It was Christmas in June one year for my 7-year-old daughter. She didn't exactly appreciate the Sitwell bio but I did.

Making clear the value of having an extra bag for catalogs and such was part of it. But the main thing was getting them press credentials.

That seemed to be a little more involved this year than in the past -- as if publishers had put on some pressure to reduce the number of people showing up just for the swag (little of it as there may be, any more). A friend from a university press griped about how, over the past few years, there have been waves of bloggers who would just grab everything they could cart off without even looking at it. You can see where certain locust-reduction measures might be necessary.

Other than that, the mentoring consisted largely of explaining stuff that -- after you've been doing this stuff for a while -- seems obvious but isn't, such as how to arrange to get page proofs for a forthcoming book if you see it in the catalog but not on the table.

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