Ethics, book reviews, blurbs

Romenesko points to the results of a survey on the subject of book reviewing ethics. (Potential conflicts, whether reviewers have to finish the book, etc.) The question that I’m curious about is number 11: “Should a person who has written an unpaid blurb for a book be allowed to write a fuller review of the book?”

An unpaid blurb? Are there paid blurbs?

Great moments in blurbing

The most prominent blurb in this print ad for Lee Siegel’s new book Falling Upwards seems pretty impressive: “One of the country’s most eloquent and acid-tongued cultural critics.” And it’s from The New York Times Magazine. Wow! So I guess The Times Magazine must have run some kind of piece about what an amazing critic and writer Siegel is, annointing him one of the greats.

Actually, not so much. The Times Magazine ran a Q&A with Siegel that was focused almost entirely on the fact that he had been caught trashing his critics and breathlessly praising himself under a fake name in the comments section of his blog for The New Republic. The full context of the blurb was this opening question of that interview:

Q: As one of the country’s most eloquent and acid-tongued cultural critics, what is it like to be so sharply criticized in public yourself? Your blog for The New Republic was terminated this month after you deceived readers, using a pseudonym to post comments in which you belittled your enemies and praised yourself as “brave, brilliant and wittier than [Jon] Stewart will ever be.”

Too bad he didn’t use that last quote in the ad: “‘Lee Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than Jon Stewart will ever be.’ – Lee Siegel.” (Or the ad could have used the question in the interview that I most enjoyed: “‘What are you talking about?’ – The New York Times Magazine.”)

But short of that, I guess using a line that would never have appeared in print had it not been occasioned by one’s own spectacular ethical and professional lapse is impressive in its own way. And a good example, actually, of having what it takes to fall upwards.