Sunday, May 30, 2010

nonsense in publishing

"when single women changed the world's economy" says the headline
remember the insane thing i heard on the radio the other day about some woman who had written a book about sex and the city? well, i hate to give this topic any more publicity than it's already getting, but after reading the M/S section of today's sunday paper, which was devoted to SATC and more specifically, this ridiculous book - da sex and the city ændrede verden (trans. - when sex and the city changed the world), which is by a supposed journalist named iben albinus sabroe. i say supposed because i cannot imagine that any self-respecting actual journalist, who had had a proper education in journalism  (or even history or political science or sociology), would write such a poorly argued tome.

let me give you a few gems from the interview with ms. sabroe....

when asked how she as a married woman with children could write this homage to the single life....

"for me, the series is a picture of the fact that we are all single, we just occasionally live within a relationship."

when asked whether the designer clothing depicted in the series weren't a bit at odds with the new values we are beginning to create after the crisis...

"shopping in our time is about identity, crisis or no crisis."

when the reporter tried to dig in a little more to the designer clothing issue...

"they (the women in the series) are kind of superheroes and the luxurious look of the series is part of telling the story of the modern single woman as a success story." 

and what has SATC taught women who are in a relationship?

"it has taught women in relationships that they are responsible for their own happiness."

"we are all single" says the headline.  and yup, that's the author
she also makes the absurd claim that when the series began in the late 90s, it wasn't politically correct for women to go out alone after work - the only reason women went out alone was to find a man. what? i came to denmark in the late 90s and i can tell you that danish women seemed quite independent and capable of doing whatever they wanted on their own, just as we did in the US. she further credits the series for being what made it ok for women to go out on their own. the woman clearly has no knowledge whatsoever of history. women gained the right to go out in public on their own long before the late 90s and it had absolutely nothing to do with a shallow television series.

but it's not all bad - in an excerpt of the book that was published with the interview today, ms. sabroe brings up the interesting statistics that of the 8 million new jobs created in the european union since 2000 6 million of them have gone to women (tho' she doesn't say what kind of jobs they are). she also says that in 2011 there will be 2,6 million more women than men in american universities. now these are interesting statistics, but let me tell you where she goes with them. in her next breath, she says that these highly-educated, career focused women (us?) use their education and good jobs to spoil themselves by indulging in facials, designer bags and shoes and that that's been a good thing for the world economy (after all, the economist says so and even has a name for this economy - the bridget jones economy). oh wait, it is all bad. i mean seriously? please.

i should note that i suspect the book to be a self-published work, as the publisher funnily enough shares ms. sabroe's name. i'll give her credit - she's been very good at making the media rounds here in conjunction with the release of the new SATC2 film, so the publication is well-timed.

i could go on and on (and since this is my second blog about it, i probably have already) about how ridiculous i think this is as a premise, especially in light of what she said on the radio about SATC's one simple commandment "be fabulous" trumped the bible's 10, but i think her quotes above actually illustrate it for me very nicely.

this seems to me like the latest manifestation of the same cultural phenomenon that brought us reality television shows. presentation of mediocre material as a means of advancing a mediocre individual in their self-glorification - be it as they vie to be wherever's next top model or self-publish their own badly-argued book and then go on a media campaign flogging said crap. and although i'm generally in favor of the self-publishing model (this is, after all, a blog), i wonder about the effect this has long term on true journalism and quality writing.

this is the second time lately when i've read danish non-fiction that i've been left thinking that a critical and competent editor was missing. if you recall the book i mentioned a few weeks ago - skønhedens befrielse - by morten skriver - i felt it was missing an editor's watchful eye as well as it echoed many sources i recognized, but none of them were actually cited in footnotes or bibliography or even within the text. in that instance, i wrote to the publisher (a little speciality publisher who just might also be  enabling self-publication) about this lack of sources. it took a couple of weeks, but i actually got a response from the author himself. he was fair and balanced in his response, but dismissed my argument on the grounds that i was only the second one to complain about it (not saying anything about how many books he's sold - if it's only 4, then 2 out of 4 is half of us that think there should have been a bibliography). even more interestingly, he said that not using footnotes and a bibliography was "an artistic choice." so there you have it, apparently now plagiarism is art.

it's a slippery slope we're on here, people. and as lover of books, i'm more than a little worried about it.


Laura Doyle said...

Ahhhhhh! I want to scream!!!!! You're so nice when you call people stupid, Julie.

But really, we are becoming a very divided people. People that recognize crap as crap and people that recognize crap as truth. The first group tends to more analytical thinking. The second group tends to do a whole lot less. Educated or not, independent thinking should reasonably cause one to recognize this mass dumbing down as a frightening phenomenon that signals the coming end of an age because really, this age of idiocy is not very sustainable and can't possibly last much longer, can it?

Whew. Long comment. Or rant. But thank you providing a counterbalance to that utter nonsense.

will said...

It seems today's "social networked" society favors opinion and trivialized factoids over facts, modern trends and rational thought.

It follows then, popular entertainment, including books, will cater to the thinness of gossipy opinion, non-specific information and exaggeration to hammer home personal point of views.

The other sadness of books as mentioned is, the popular image that women are somehow like fish - attracted to shiny objects while also scoffing at hard-earned fem-lib values and woman as a thoughtful, political, independent entity.

Elizabeth said...

Each time when you read or hear something you feed your mind.
Do you remember the papermache spoons of Cathy Cullis or the strawberry basket I covered with blue knitting with the chopsticks and the quotes.

One of the quotes was Be careful what you are eating.

This is a book that is not on my menu.

Erin Wallace said...

This is utterly ridiculous. You are right in saying that the show was about women striving fro relationships. They didn't want to be single. They didn't want to be thought of as single in a relationship occassionally. And even when they weren't with a man, they had relationships with each other. Women can't be defined by Carrie, et al, because they are ideals written about by a New Yorker, styled to the hilt in clothes that only millionaires can afford and living a life that few can attain. Sex and the City is escapism, not reality.


mrs mediocrity said...

Where to start, you covered it quite well, but it is scary. Don't get me wrong, I always loved the show Sex and the City, but to me, the focus of that show was the city, not the sex. The relationship drama is pretty much the same everywhere, but the locale made the show.
We seem to have forgotten what entertainment is, a pretend something that we use as a brief escape from reality. Hmmm...

stephanie said...

Gah! That's really all I can say...

The sad part is that I'm not surprised at all about any of it. For a long time I have been of the mind that so many people think their life is a movie and that they have to emulate all this crap on TV and do things like these made up characters. Even reality TV is contrived...none of it is reality unless you count the massive amounts of drama and craziness that abound.

And I think it's funny that that writer thinks SATC is the reason that women go out solo. That's just about the silliest thing I've ever heard.