by Jeremy Young | 4/14/2008 07:24:00 PM
From Scott McLemee's devastating review of Houston Baker's Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era, we have this gem:

Baker points out that in the 1940s, Irving Kristol, the founding father of that neoconservatism, abandoned the constricted world of left-wing politics “in search of a more expansive field of intellectual and associational commerce (one in which he would be ‘permitted’ to read Max Faber)....”

That parenthetical reference stopped me cold. I have a certain familiarity with the history of Kristol and his cohort, but somehow the role of Max Faber in their bildung had escaped my notice. Indeed, the name itself was totally unfamiliar. And having been informed that this book was “the product of “a rigorous, scholarly reading practice” — one “seasoned with wit,” mind you, and published by Columbia University Press — I felt quite embarrassed by this gap in my knowledge.

Off to the library, then, to unearth the works of Max Faber! And then the little light bulb went off. Baker (who assures us that he is a capable judge of social-scientific discussions of African-American life) was actually referring to Max Weber.

It’s a good thing the author of this book is “a confident, certified, and practiced reader of textual argument, implicit textual values and implications, and the ever-varying significations of written words in their multiple contexts of reception.” Otherwise one would have to feel embarrassed for him, and for the press that published it. And not just for its copy editors, by any means.


Something Scott doesn't mention: Max Weber's name is actually pronounced "Max Faber" (or "Max Vaber," to be perfectly accurate, but let's not get nitpicky). Aside from Scott's comments about copy editing, it makes me wonder just how much of this book was actually written by Baker and how much was, well, dictated by him.

What's on your mind?



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2 Comments:


Anonymous Scott McLemee on 4/16/2008 10:02 PM:

I did expect that readers would know how to pronounce Weber's name.

As for the error coming via Baker dictating rather than writing it -- well, I can see that happening in a draft, but we're talking about the finished book. Assuming the author knew what he was talking about, it would be an error he would correct. But if he didn't....

Let's just say that very distinguished authors are, after all, really just too busy, sometimes, and must delegate certain functions.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/16/2008 10:16 PM:

Since we've got some non-academics here, I figured I'd spell it out.

As for the delegation, yeah, you're right. And that's a serious problem, in my view.

Not that something doesn't have to fall by the wayside when you get famous. But it shouldn't be your scholarship.