February 28, 2005

I can't wait for part 2

A few months ago on this site I said that one of most important things a blogger can do is promote his friends. Now I thought that was a pretty uncontroversial statement. Maybe even an admirable one -- aren't friends supposed to do nice things for one another?

Apprarently not. It seems that Nathalie at Galleycat has some sort of problem with my most recent promotional blogging, on behalf of my friend Kevin's new novel, Cast of Shadows. What is Nathalie's problem? Good question. Let's read her post together and see if we can figure it out.

"I'm not sure what it says about our general sense of humanity that, the less we know someone, the less obligation we feel towards treating them fairly," begins Nathalie, and it's true: she's not -- as we'll soon see from her own decisions about whether or not to treat certain people fairly. But the Cat's concern here in this introductory graf is how people treat celebrities. You may want to sit down, but it seems, Nathalie observes, that we are more likely to make fun of celebrities than "friends, acquaintances, and most non-public figures." Now, you may think that this is going to be a call to stop laughing at Jessica Simpson's cellulite, but in fact it's the opposite: a call to start laughing at our friends' celluite. Refreshing!

That, more or less, is the first half of my response to a recent email I got about bloggers' (overly?) enthusiastic reaction to Kevin Guilfoile's upcoming book, Cast of Shadows. According to the email's author, "The book is awful, it fails even as throw-away thriller, but Kevin will get a pass thanks to his connections to Radosh, Coudal, and the Morning News. This hypocritical clubbiness is turning the book blogs [into] the new establishment."

Nathalie doesn't say who sent this e-mail, but I assume it's some Wenclas wannabe whose ideas aren't exactly to be taken seriously. But Nathalie Chicha is a professional blogger -- one of the few people who actually gets paid for this nonsense -- so one expects a certain standard from her.

For instance, it is customary, on Internet blogs, to provide links to other bloggers whom you are criticizing so that readers can judge for themselves whether your targets have truly sinned or whether it is you who has your head up your ass. Had Nathalie linked to Coudal or The Morning News, readers might have learned that Kevin Guilfoile is a contributor to both those sites -- so that their promoting his novel, while fully disclosing -- nay, shouting from the rooftops -- that he is one of their own, is exactly the equivalent of what every print magazine does with those "by our authors" columns. These are not reviews, but alerts to the reader that if you like what our writer does here, you may also like this other thing he does.

And had she linked to this site (and actually this applies equally well to Coudal and almost equally well to TMN) readers might have realized that Radosh.net is not a lit blog. I do not review books here, ever, unless they are books by my friends. Nathalie's concern might make a little sense if this site were known for its book reviews and I happened to slip in a positive review of a book by a friend without alerting people, but Kevin is not "getting a pass" from me, because it's not like I would attack his book if I didn't know him; I wouldn't even have mentioned it in the first place.

(If the implication is that bloggers who do review books will go easy on Kevin because they know me (which they don't) and I know Kevin, well, I'd like to see a shred of evidence. Certainly, I doubt the rumored glowing review in next weekend's New York Times has anything to do with Kevin's "connection." Update: The rumors are true. See the comments below.)

Now, I do sometimes review books for magazines, and if an editor asked me to review Kevin's novel, of course I would tell them I couldn't do it because of a conflict of interest. But a blog is not a magazine. To say that I shouldn't recommend a friend's book here (after disclosing our connection in excruciating detail) is pretty much the same as saying that I shouldn't recommend a friend's book in, say, a casual conversation at a party. Who benefits from such scrupulous "objectivity"? As Gwenda says, "My friends are fucking talented and I believe you should be checking out their work."

Ah, but in her final graf, Nathalie explains that bloggers think every other blogger is their friend, and so pretty soon, we won't honestly critique any other blogger's work, thus distorting the natural market forces that give a book its buzz. Beatrice quite rightly raises an eyebrow at this -- yes, the problem with bloggers is that we're too nice to each other -- and I find myself wondering how Nathalie's own post fits into this supposed trend. If she's right, after all, then rather than accusing me (by proxy) of "hypocritical clubbiness" she should, as a fellow blogger, whom I have met and exchanged pleasantries with, consider me a friend and thus off limits for criticism. But of course, when Nathalie talks about what bloggers do, she doesn't mean herself. She's above that. Just as, surely, she's not motivated to knock me because I once declined to write for her boyfriend's magazine.

Um, just in case Sean Penn is reading: I don't really believe for a second that that last bit is germane; I'm just showing how easy it is to be a jerk if you want to sound like Nathalie's correspondent.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


So...either we're not friends, or you're selectively enforcing friend-promotion policy. Fuck you! Where's the CampusJ promotion contest, wherein those vying for the prize shall write essays discussing the impact that this news model will have ON THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD?

I think her real beef is with the book. I think when you pump your pal's book and it is fairly mediocre you deserve to be called out.

If that's the case, fine. She has a right to her opinion, as does anyone else. But it's not what she said. And if your implication is that I also believe the book is mediocre but I'm pumping it because Kevin is a friend, well, that's simply wrong. As I said in my first post, it was only after I honestly told Kevin how much I enjoyed it that he asked me to do him the small favor of giving away copies on my blog to help him promote it. You can disagree with my opinion of the book, but you can't "call me out" for hyping it dishonestly.

Indeed, as Steven is coming to understand, to his ironic (I trust) distress, I don't automatically hype every project by everyone I know. Steven is the very sharp writer who created such fine blogs as Protocols, and, more recently, Canonist, both of which I have mentioned on my site. But I haven't talked up his new project, Campus J, because I don't find it particularly interesting. Don't get me wrong: for what it is, and for its intended audience, it's quite good. I just don't really follow or care to follow the latest trends in Jewish issues on college campuses, and I don't think my readers do either, hence, the lack of hype (which he's getting plenty of elsewhere, don't you worry).

Radosh v. Chicha makes Queenan v. Jacobs look a bit closer to Mailer v. Vidal.


Hell, Radosh v. Chicha makes Mutley v. Pigeon look like Mailer v. Vidal...

I would like to publicly thank Daniel for pumping my book, Women Confronting Retirement. and listing it on his blog.
his mother

I guess you are right. You're just guilty of bad fiction taste.

Possibly. But what is far more important to Kevin's success is that Mark Schone, who reviews CoS in next Sunday's New York Times, shares my lousy taste. The publisher isn't going to know where to start blurbing:

"Always surprising medical thriller, complete with elegant prose and well-developed characters."

"A sure-handed, extremely pitchable what-if, a great platform on which to build a thriller."

"He would seem to be doing Koontz and Cook one better."

"Like a good detective novelist, he gives Cast of Shadows a sturdy sense of place... Like a good fiction writer, he's also able to keep his imagined future near at hand."

"All of Guilfoile's characters, whether clones, online avatars, or killers inhabit the real world. Their motives are small and familiar, and they can't see past the ends of their own noses. When the book's secret is revealed, it's not about the violence in computer games, or about nature versus nurture, or the overreach of science, or the Pandora's box of cloning. It's about human failure, the power of conviction and the random disorder of daily life. Guilfoile's finely-rendered re-creation of the real world is what elevates Cast of Shadows above clone lit. In what may be the book's only hint of satire, the clone kid sets a Dean Koontz novel on fire."

Dang! Congratulations, Kevin. And thank god they didn't give the review to slopenozzle, huh? I'm pretty sure he was their second choice.

Well, you can't always judge a book by those NYT reviews...

Customers who bought this book also bought

* State Of Fear by Michael Crichton
* Night Fall by Nelson DeMille
* Honeymoon by James Patterson
* The Broker by John Grisham
* Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz
* Hour Game by David Baldacci

Well, the fabled Harriet Klausner (Amazon's #1 reviewer!) gave it 4/5 stars.

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