"A Truffle Hound's Nose for the Trite."

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"In a world with fewer and fewer professional editors or reviewers, how are we to know what and whom to believe?"

This question doesn't keep me awake nights–we'll muddle through somehow. But Andrew Keen is nigh apoplectic about the current state of affairs in his new book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture.

Craig Seligman's scathing Bloomberg.com review takes issue with Keen's love of traditional authorities:

Given Keen's belligerent confidence in the superiority of traditional media, it seems worth pointing out that his copy editor missed several grammatical gaffes ("it is us who are faced with the task …"); his fact checker failed to point out that "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" wasn't written by "Gibbons"; and his editor allowed him to get by with prose that often sounds as though it had been lifted from brochures. ("Nothing is more important in a democracy such as ours than an informed citizenship." As opposed to a democracy such as whose?)

The man has a truffle hound's nose for the trite.

Amazon.com (Keen "blames the closing of independent bookstores on the Internet") recommends buying Keen's rant with David Weinberger's excellent Everything is Miscellaneous, which I discussed with him in an interview for the upcoming print edition and blogged here.

Weinberger is essentially the anti-Keen, and his book makes an excellent antidote to Keen's hysteria, but since all those amateur reviews and the sales figures generated by ordinary book buyers (gasp!) suggested the match, I suppose it can't be trusted.

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  1. Truffles are rooted out by pigs.

  2. They also use dogs (indeed, dogs are now more commonly used).

  3. Didn’t Linus once try to get Snoopy to look for truffles?

  4. Dogs are favored now because the pigs like to eat the truffles. Pigs, however, do not have to be trained to find them.

  5. I believe that Grotius is correct. And, by the way, if you haven’t experienced truffles, you need to. Yum!

    I spent a little time a while back thinking about buying or opening a bookstore. It is, and long has been, a difficult business to turn a profit in, but one can hardly blame Amazon.com for that. In fact, the modern model for opening a small bookstore is to ensure that you have a robust on-line presence, including the sale of used books on Amazon itself! I think the recommended mix was something like 20-30% of all sales being web-based (including direct sales, if you decide to host your own site).

    As for “higher” mediated culture, bah. It’s not all ugly now, and I daresay that this is a transition period, seeing how widespread use of the Internet is entirely a recent phenomenon. Amateur does not equal bad, especially in the arts.

  6. “In a world with fewer and fewer professional editors or reviewers, how are we to know what and whom to believe?”

    Think for yourself?

    When I started writing the only legitimate publishing houses were in New York City. Today we have EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection) which lists dozens of publishers all over the world, including my publisher, Zumaya Publications in Austin, Texas.

  7. Bookstore?

    Those are the coffee places with all the reading material, right?

  8. joe,

    True, but people actually do buy books still. If I wasn’t Mike Brady, I might’ve risked it.

  9. “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” wasn’t written by “Gibbons”

    Worthy of Clarence Darrow at the Scopes trial!

  10. So is Seligman pointing out that the “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” was written by Edward Gibbon (sans the ‘s’) or claiming that it was written by someone else entirely. I’m a bit confused.

  11. sans the ‘s’

  12. I’d rank that up with typos rather than misplaced facts. Talk about nitpickery. And if it was used in possessive in the book, it would be correct I believe.

  13. nevermind, it would have needed an apostrophe.

  14. Gibbooooooonnnsssssssss! Gibby!

  15. “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” wasn’t written by “Gibbons”

    Well, if you chain two gibbons to a typewriter, it will be, given enough time.

  16. Lost in Translation,
    It’s perfectly appropriate to nitpick considering he was writing about the lack of professional editing on the internet.

  17. “In a world with fewer and fewer professional editors or reviewers, how are we to know what and whom to believe?”

    I also pine for the professional and accurate days of William Randolph Hearst. But then, don’t we all?

  18. We’re all free agents now.
    Caveat emptor.

  19. nevermind, it would have needed an apostrophe.

    “Never” and “mind” are two separate words, unless you are referring to the Nirvana album.

  20. As William Safire wrote, who wants nits?

  21. I’d rank that up with typos rather than misplaced facts. Talk about nitpickery.

    Lost_In_Translation,

    Usually, yes, this is insignificant nitpickery. However, in this case, where the subject of the book is on the professionalism of writing, I would think these errors detract from the message.

    Or some shit…

  22. Damn you Pinette and your superior connection speed!

  23. Actually, when Keen said “editors and critics” I thought he was talking about the editors at publishing houses who decide which manuscripts will be published, not the copy editors who correct them.

  24. I thought he was talking about the editors at publishing houses who decide which manuscripts will be published

    Or the “editors” at most magazines (e.g. Our Kind Hosts) who are actually the staff writers, in contrast to those idiots who write stuff on teh internets for free!

  25. highnumber,

    not in colloquial usage.

  26. Lost_In_Translation,

    Screw you. It’s a noun!

    Uh, take that “screw you” very lightly, please.

  27. Haven’t read the book, mainly because as roughneck scum, my reading time is given over to wrestling magazines, but I just really have to comment on an excerpted line featured in the Bllomberg.com review (since the reviewer is with a known media outlet, we must assume the excerpt is accurate), to wit:

    `With so many songs available for free, or for 99 cents from iTunes and the like, why would anyone pay $15 to $20 for a CD?’

    Well, gee, shiteheel, let’s stop progress and stop offering people what the hell the want so the music industry won’t have to create a new business model! I mean, COME ON, read your goddamn Schumpeter!

    Huff.

  28. That would be “Hulk” Schumpeter. Make it easy for them to find, greg!

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