(I get approximately this anxious when people review my stuff… And when I’m asked for comment…)
I got a message back in February from a professor at Long Island University who said she was reviewing my new book (Dynamics of News Reporting and Writing) and wondered if she could ask me some questions. I had never gotten a review request like that before, but I figured that the person wanted a couple “fluffy” quotes to go along with whatever she was going to write, so I said, “Sure, why not?”
When I got on the phone with Carolyn Schurr Levin, it quickly dawned on me that she was taking the review seriously and “fluffy” wasn’t going to be on the menu. (I later learned that on top of being a journalist and a student media adviser, she is a top-flight lawyer and a brilliant legal mind.)
I’m not good at what my publisher refers to as “the promotional elements” of this process. (I call it something else, but I’ve been asked not to use that term any more. Just think of a guy in a long fur coat, wearing a purple hat with a feather, offering you “book companionship” and you can probably figure it out.) I figure it’s easier to just say, “Look, read it. If you hate it and hope I die in a fire, I’m OK with that, but please don’t ask me to say something pithy about it that makes it sound like I’m schmoozing on ‘The View’ or something.”
Thus, when her first question was basically, “So what is this book and why is it any different from all the other stuff out there?” I actually was both a bit stunned and a bit relieved. I just started talking about stuff I did. No sugar. No BS. Just, “Here’s what I did, here’s why I did it and here’s why I think it matters.” After about 20 minutes, we were done and I felt great.
Until, of course, I realized, “Dear God, that’s all going to end up in a review somewhere without any fluffy bits of happy sprinkled on it. SAGE is going to kill me…”
The review came out on Tuesday and I opened it with the same trepidation I do when I find a Tupperware container in the back of the fridge that looks like the thing inside is developing language skills. It wasn’t because I was worried about what she would say, because, honestly, Levin was totally a straight shooter and whatever she said was at least 100 percent true whether I liked it or not. It was because, again, I had no idea what stupid things I had said that might make for some awkward explanations.
In the end, she was more than fair and whatever I said either a) wasn’t as bad as I remember it to be or b) she showed mercy and cut around that stuff.
In any case: Here’s the review.