“A few years ago, writing about the book business and how dumbed down and craven books had becomeâ€”and pathetic, designed only to sell and then not sellingâ€”I wrote the line â€œbooks suck,â€ subjecting me to much middlebrow opprobrium.” So writes Michael Wolff in a recent article titled, Books are Bad for You.
Wolff writes about a specific type of book really (not all of them are bad for you; at least that’s what I think he is saying). It’s the book as political statement, or public relations scheme. (Sarah Palin’s book as exhibit A), instead of an honest, researched account. It’s that genre of nonfiction meant to say that this is the world as I wish it to be rather than this is the world as it is that has Wolff so upset. It’s books that aren’t even written by the “author” that really gets under his skin.
“Itâ€™s a sleight of hand. A bait and switch. Itâ€™s not that there is anything wrong, or at least out of the ordinary, with salesmanship or promotional copy, or with even saying you wrote what your ghostwriter wrote. This is the stuff of speeches, advertising, and testimonials. Whatâ€™s insidious here is that these forms, which are understood to be insincere and a confection, are now in the guise of a book, which is understood to be genuine and substantial.”