Authors and publicists labor mightily to move their product. A few years ago, the p.r. crew assigned to Curtis Sittenfeld's "Prep," a coming-of-age novel set at a private high school, sent potential reviewers a quintessentially preppy pink-and-white belt along with other prepster regalia, as well as reproductions of the high-school yearbook photos of the publicists. More recently, leftist heroine Naomi Klein ("The Shock Doctrine") was lucky enough to have the director Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men") sign on to create a promotional film for her cautionary nonfiction book.
But could Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Princeton University Press be taking book promotion to a whole new level? Harvard economist Greg Mankiw reports that the following email landed in his in-box from PU Press, suggesting that he and other economists might be freshly interested in a five-year-old book by Bernanke: "Essays on the Great Depression":
As the subprime mortgage and credit disasters continue to wreak havoc on world economies and pocketbooks, many are looking to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke for guidance and leadership in this tumultuous time. Fortunately, our Fed chief is one of the pre-eminent scholars of the Great Depression. Because of the market turmoil, Bernanke's treatment of the Great Depression has been finding a new audience of readers as media, policymakers, businessmen, professionals, and others -- both in the US and abroad -- seek to understand our present economic situation.
Surely it is not only "fortunate" but sheer coincidence that Bernanke, who holds some of the most powerful levers affecting the American economy, is an expert on financial calamity and stands to gain from sales of an obscure academic-press book about the Depression. Of course this is coincidental -- right?
*title borrowed/stolen from Mankiw
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.