Sunday, May 14, 2006

Book Review? What Book Review?

Have you heard of this book, THE JEWISH DIVIDE OVER ISRAEL - Edward Alexander & Paul Bogdanor, Eds.?

Of course not.

And why?

Well, here's Professor Alexander's thinking:-

Several of you have asked me: "Hasn't the book been reviewed anywhere?"

The answer, I regret to report, is no; and this is not a hyperbolic but a literal no. It has not been reviewed anywhere at all, not even in Publishers Weekly or Choice. This may be due to a lack of interest in its subject, but I'm pretty sure it is in large part due to what might delicately be called "technical" reasons about which I hesitate to speculate here.

I've also made a few spot checks of libraries and noted, with considerable dismay, that the book is not even in the New York Public Library or (less surprising, I suppose) Brandeis University. A few of you, most notably Menachem Kellner, have been heroic in trying to publicize the book and get it reviewed (and purchased by institutions); anything the others can do to help would be much appreciated. (Bogdanor and I have been sending our author's copies to people likely to be both interested in it and capable of placing a review.)

Yes, I'm aware that such appeals put one in the position of the lady who asked Oscar Wilde what she could do about the "conspiracy of silence" against her book and was told: "Join it, madam, join it."

Yours gloomily,

And his publisher's opinion:-

Dear Colleagues:

Being involved in the publishing as well as professional sides of this most important and courageous book edited by Professor Alexander, let me simply note that our Transaction staff has worked long and tirelessly in getting this effort into the hands of reviewers and publications alike. Indeed, 25 pre-publication sets were hand bound and sent to major media outlets. In addition, a large number of copies have been sent out (to be sure by the editor as well as publisher). The book is featured on the home page of the Transaction web site - with an extra ten percent discount.

Given its singular significance, our TA staff has worked tirelessly to promote the work in variety of major publications. That said, a few points need to be made - so that all contributors and staff alike do not fall prey to despair or worse, thinking that this book is in any way unworthy of public attention.

It is important to realize that major media very rarely review anthologies or collections such as this title. It is also imperative to note that the work has strong intellectual orientations that do not coincide with many of not most major media outlets in our country. That said, keep in mind also that books such as this have a long shelf life. It will be reviewed by quarterlies, monthlies, overseas publications, specialist outlets, etc. This work will receive attention, and it is also the case that we are looking at a work that may take one year, perhaps two, to get into the marketing pipeline.

This is an expensive undertaking for Transaction Publishers no less than a time and energy consuming one for contributors and editors. We both want and need a success in this title. Transaction has one of the finest professional lists in Judaic and Israeli Studies. Professor Alexander's effort (with this as with earlier titles) is very much an effort to extend that out-reach to our audience and to new audiences. In short, it is not yet time to write a denouement to this special collective work on a subject of deep emotional as well as intellectual worth.


So, even if you haven't read a review, maybe you should go buy it?

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