Michael Kerenâ€™s new book Blogoshere â€“ The New Political Arena, has not made the New York Times best seller list, but it certainly has caused a stir in the â€˜Blogosphereâ€™. My review has been reflected by other reviewers and Bloggers. In a nutshell Dr Keren does not like the Blogging community, and doubts its usefulness as a form of news and information.
My approach to any book review is to include an interview with the author. I do this for a number of reasons, not least of which is to get a better understanding of the plot and characters.
Dr Keren was initially happy with the interview idea, however the net result was a less than satisfactory trading of emails. I suspect that he was not expecting that his academic work would stray into the real world. And he was certainly not expecting the negative reaction that his book has created.
Suddenly there was no time to hold an interview because of his imminent return to Israel, odd that in an earlier email he quoted his departure date was the 24th of February. Odd that he will miss his own â€˜book launchâ€™ on next Friday evening.Â
There is a large divide between the Academic Press and the Trade Press. Both sides view the other with skepticism, academia views us mere mortals as â€˜not understandingâ€™, while we poor mortals think â€œPublish or dieâ€ is the mantra for the tenured professor.
It is a very rare occasion that a book can truly be called a â€˜crossoverâ€™, one that can live happily in both worlds. I have reviewed and interviewed a number of academic authors, and I think the tension was succinctly put by one academic author who asked that I not use his name â€œPublishing a crossover book would kill my career at this stageâ€.
Being the fearless interviewer that I am, I plowed on regardless.
A question that I always ask an author is â€œhow are early sales going?â€, for the first time ever I received a reply of â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€. Based on the fact that Dr Keren was paid to write the book, someone else paid to have it printed, and he is going to use it as required reading in one of his courses, this reply should not have been a surprise!
This is completely different from the Trade Press world. The author always cares about sales.
Another question I posed:
Q: While reading your book, particularly the early chapters the word â€˜Carnageâ€™ kept popping into my head. What I found interesting was the Blogs that you were particularly ruthless with, tended to be North American. Can any conclusion be drawn?
A: There are many legitimate interpretations that can be given to a book. My own approach, as far as I can judge, has been anything but ruthless. No conclusions can be drawn from this study on North American versus other blogs as the book makes it very clear that the cases chosen for analysis do not constitute a sample.
This answer was interesting, the whole premise of the book is to doubt the worth of blogging, yet in this answer he points out that the blogs do not constitute a sample!
One question that I almost got a sensible answer to concerned the nine bloggers that he systematically tears apart.
Q: Did you have any conversations with any of the victims? And have you received any feedback from any of them?
A: I am not sure I follow the reference to the blogs analyzed in this study as victims. Would you call the subjects of my former book analyzing characters in twentieth century literature, such as Thomas Mann’s Hans Kastorp or Albert Camus’s Meursault, “victims”? I referred to the blogs as published texts open for analysis and did not deal with or have conversations with their authors.
From an ethical standpoint I found this answer very disturbing, to decimate the writings of 9 living and mostly active writers without the decency of contacting them first is not a very good approach. It is certainly not one that I or any writer that I have met would do.
Once again we are back to the Academic v Trade question. As a Trade writer I am concerned about being on good terms with fellow writers, which apparently is of no interest to Dr Keren and his agenda.
Dr Michael Keren has done little to break down the wall between academia and the real world with his approach. Doing some searching online reveals no interviews with him to date, so this is about as good as it gets!