Memorandum 3

To all faculty at Harvard, Michigan, Yale, and similar schools: In your book prefaces, please be a little more discreet about the fun you had writing them. We know your smart graduate students read this book in draft – in fact, to do so was their seminar – and made useful comments. We know you have regular sabbaticals and travel funding, that interesting visiting fellows are at your institution every week, that your wives and children cooked lovely meals for you while you wrote and yet stayed out of your way, and that you have many other comforts.

I begrudge you none of this. The phrase I wish you would cease and desist from writing is “…without which this book could never have been written.” I have always found that sentence terribly depressing, as it implies that since I do not have these advantages, I cannot write mine.

Axé.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Memorandum 3

  1. servetus

    This is great. I could think of a whole list of things I never want to read again. One could be “of course I take responsibility for any errors” [that remain after the entire field is named in the preface to prevent any of them publishing a negative review of it].

  2. Absolutely! I sometimes think that those are more about “see all the famous people I know/privileges I have” than actual thanks. Not that I’m green with envy or anything.

  3. But wouldn’t it make you feel generally superior if you can produce your book under much more trying circumstances?

    Seriously, I think that we need to cultivate our pride. Whenever we see somebody get a free ride because of who they are considered to be within the system (rather than the strength of their character alone) we need to pat ourselves on the back and realise what we are worth.

  4. Z

    Well, I was actually thinking that those prefaces, besides being ways of bragging, are also literally ways of admitting they didn’t write the book themselves, really.

    It would explain this book I reviewed, which had intellectual and factual errors that could not have been the copy editor’s fault and which I have trouble believing could have come from a person with a finished degree and a tenured job in a good place. Maybe it really was written by a committee of mid-career graduate students.

  5. “…after the entire field is named in the preface to prevent any of them publishing a negative review of it.”

    Eureka! That is why they name so many people!

  6. that your wives and children cooked lovely meals for you while you wrote and yet stayed out of your way,

    I begrudge this one.

    Sigh.

    (Loving the Memorandums.)

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