Thursday, September 20, 2007

We seem to be having an effect

Meg is peeved.
"I have to admit to a bit of private hilarity at the multiple accusations that I couldn't possibly have read Jon Chait's book because a mere thirty six hours before I posted my review of it, I complained of not having a copy."
She's off by about an hour, by my math. (The TPM post isn't time stamped but the post where she admitted not reading the book was stamped 9:12 AM, Sept 10, and she posted at 8 the next day to tell us the TPM post was up. So that's 35 hours. Minus approximately 8 for sleep, say roughly an hour for bathrooming and showering, another 2 hours for eating and grooming, an hour for travel to and from 'work', totals 12 hours, leaving her 23. She also posted 5 times, so, being generous and saying she averages roughly an hour's work per post, we're down to 18. However, that Tuesday was 9/11. She doesn't say whether she took any time to mark the unfortunate anniversary, but considering how loudly she proclaims her NYC roots (and folks, there's 12-20 million of us here, depending on how you define a New Yorker, so don't give her credit for being representative) it seems safe to say she might have taken an hour or so to think about it. So we'll give her 17 hours to read and prepare. Back to you, Meg,
"I hadn't realized that so many people considered reading a 250-page book, set in the EZ Reader Xtra Large typeface popular among political polemics, such a heroic feat. I'm sorry to disappoint, but shortly after that post, I borrowed a copy from my colleague Matt Yglesias, then sat down and read the book."
I don't consider reading a 250 page book in 17 hours to be difficult. It could probably be done in 5 hours or less, but let's say it took her about 7 hours, with breaks for stretching and getting a new Diet Coketini. That leaves a solid 10 hours for research and preparation and writing. And remember, that's with ample time for sleeping, eating, grooming, and etc factored in. In undergrad terms, 10 hours is a lifetime.
Her finished piece was 1750 words, which is 5 pages, give or take half a page or so. 2 hours a page. If this were an undergrad reaction paper she'd be golden.
But, well.....
It ain't an undergrad reaction paper. Sadly, it reads like one, but this is supposed to be the work of a..... damn this is hard to write.... professional journalist. These are people who are paid to be informed about a topic, so that they can help inform others. To Megan, that means talking about herself, and then talking about what people are saying about her. The TPM piece does not contain a single quote from Chait's book. I'll repeat that, because it bears repeating. In 1750 words about a book, Megan does not quote it a single time. That would make this a failing undergrad paper. There's a link to a goddamn PJ O'Rourke piece, but not a single word from the text in question. Her Works Cited page would consist of a picture of her ass.
So, Megan, let me help you out. It's not that we don't believe you read the book, tho, frankly, I still doubt your word on that, it's that you didn't actually talk about the book. You failed to contribute to the discussion, in ways that suggested you didn't properly prepare. That you've chosen to revisit the issue 9 days later and try to prove you did read it doesn't help your case. If anything, it suggests you recognize the validity of the criticisms leveled against you, and they stuck in your craw. We've moved on, as you provide ample new material every day. (Except on Fridays and weekends.)
But getting back to this book discussion, as I said earlier, the job of a professional journalist, or critic, is to be informed about the topic at hand. Simply reading the book may be enough for undergrad papers, but adult professionals are expected to genuinely know what they're talking about. As in reading the book a couple times, reading the reviews of the book, reading scholarly pieces responding to the economic content, reading related texts on the topic, maybe even, and I know this is mindblowing to you, emailing the author questions to make sure you understand him properly. Your kneejerk response, Megan, is worth jack shit. Even if you did read the book, you failed to meet the standards millions of undergrads manage every day, and you're no undergrad.
This, just maybe, might be an example of how you're dragging The Atlantic into a pit of sub-mediocrity. You're not even adequate. (And yes, I know TPM isn't The Atlantic, but let's not quibble.)
But hey, you know Matt Yglesias personally!
Ugh.
Fire Megan McArdle.

8 comments:

fardels bear said...

I recently reviewed a book for the JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY. It was about 350 pages. I was given 4 months to complete the review. I took an extra month. The review was 500 words long.

That is a pretty standard expectation for an academic review of a book. Undergraduates, and hacks for the ATLANTIC MONTHLY apparently read the equivalent of Cliff Notes and then try to pretend they read the book. And it isn't hard to spot.

RCP said...

Her Works Cited page would consist of a picture of her ass.

This is hilarious.

Clem said...

You know, it is fun to think that we played a part in inducing McArdle's defensive posts; first, her "I'm sorry I didn't have much to say at TPM, really, really busy, but Will thinks blah blah bah" post, followed by today's "Fuck you, I DID TOO read the book, all the way through page 34" rant. However, for whatever nuisance value we may provide, I do wonder if these posts weren't prompted by something else, like, say, someone from TPM writing to say "Uh, did you read the book? Because you kind of made me look like a jackass, and my boss thinks it would be best if you didn't come back."

brad said...

Gavin probably deserves primary credit. I doubt TPM wants to attract any further attention to its mistake.

MeMeMe said...

You guys obviously missed an older post of Megan's where she bragged (surprise, surprise) about what a super-duper fast reader she was. Because reading isn't about enjoying yourself and digesting the information, it's about being the first one to finish.

M. Bouffant said...

mememe:
Is that "me meme" or "Me, me, me!"
There is a refernce to Ms. McA.'s amazing ability to read 1700 pp. of Stephen King in a weekend in the item immediately below this one.

MeMeMe said...

It's Me!Me!Me! I was actually talking about a post she wrote back in the Jane Galt days. I still get a laugh out of her profile there, where she writes "I read a lot (obviously)." Why is that obvious? Because you're so obviously smart and great? I know one of the conditions of being a high-profile blogger is to be overly-impressed with yourself, but that gal really takes the cake in that department.

Fishbone McGonigle said...

Her Works Cited page would consist of a picture of her ass.

Now THAT'S funny!