Self-flagellation and Cultural Criticism

I was justifiably excited last week when my publisher told me that Kirkus Reviews had reviewed my new book, The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined The GOP. I don’t understand this world as much as others do, so I can only rely on what I’m told, but this is apparently quite a big deal. Kirkus Reviews, it seems, is the 900-pound gorilla in the publishing world. As my friend David Weinberger wrote me, “Kirkus is indeed an official Big Deal. It helps set the agenda.” That’s an important observation, because if you seek access to the global information agenda, somebody has to enable that. You can’t just walk into a newspaper and say, “I’ve got something to say.” In our culture, it doesn’t work that way. At least not yet.

So now my little book is sitting there in a most visible spot to be read and reviewed by those who make a living doing such. It’s a step up the ladder of visibility for a perspective that is not discussed as often as it perhaps should be, and I can’t wait to see where this goes next.

I did want to say a couple of things about the review itself, especially in the context of the reality that no review from Kirkus is a bad review. However, it stings when the reviewer says I’m overreaching in the views I represent as a “critical … link in the formation of modern conservative media and as a media prophet.” The former is a judgment call, but the latter is simply a lack of knowledge about my history as a journalist over the last twenty years. I’ve written three books on the subject, and the views I’ve presented have been dissected and critiqued by some of the best minds in the field of journalism and new media. So that part of the review is just wrong. “Here, his own story seems out of place with such grand theorizing.” Those familiar with my work will not view the chapter on media and culture as out of place whatsoever.

The reviewer’s conclusion, therefore — Some intriguing, relevant 1980s history couched in too much self-flagellation and cultural criticism — is actually quite good. So I’m not only delighted that Kirkus chose my book to review, but I also think it’s a fair review and quite useful.

The book is available for pre-order and should be in the warehouse in just a couple of weeks. I can’t wait, for then the real fun will begin.

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