External affirmation is the fuel of academic progress and its natural corollary is external rejection. We write papers and submit them and, more often than not, we get reviews that run from gentle refusal to sadistic cruelty. I am more familiar with the first. I have now received something close to the second. I won’t use this entry to complain about that review. Frankly, it’s not constructive. The paper was turned down and there are really only three options for the rejected writer:
I’m sure John Crok of Tetworth, Cambridgeshire, enjoyed his game of ‘guess what’s in the bag’, and won drinks at some public house in Southwark until a disgruntled husbandman, blabbed to the bailiffs. What no-one could manage to guess, and what became known to the bailiffs, was that John Crok was walking around the south bank of the Thames, with a head in a bag—capud cuiusdam Sarisini—a certain Saracen head, from Toledo.
In October of 1371, Crok was called before the court of King’s Bench at Westminster to explain himself (and the head).
It’s becoming an irritating cliche that each new writing project shuns the lessons of experience and instead, dreams up some new pain. Some things get easier. New and harder things, take their place. Each new project drags along new company to mess with the routine I devised to accommodate the last bunch of unwelcome guests. I suppose if I was writing about the same thing, in the same way, all the time, this wouldn’t happen, but that would not build a useful academic career.
This new problem (and I refuse to adopt anything close to a positive, forward thinking vocabulary by calling this a ‘challenge’—to do so would be dishonest and patronizing to all involved). The new problem is that I am required, by the conditions of my editorial guidelines, to write a book chapter without the use of the first person, or its plural ‘we’, or any other gesture of self reference. Normally, this isn’t a problem. It is a problem now.
I forgot to add a list of new books—new to me at any rate—with the March review. I will try and make this part of the regular thing because I like the idea, and it’s a good way to remind myself that I am still bibliophiliac. I and my family have come to accept that it is, in all probability, a terminal case, but only through careful observation and management will I be able to control the malignancy and live out my shelf-space as long as I can.
While I am determined to maintain the habit of the monthly review, I can’t say I take much pride in the contents of this one. Naturally, I have only myself to blame for both the results, and my own disappointment. Judge all you want, I’m not particularly concerned about the course of public opinion. And, if that obviously defensive introduction does not deter you, read on for the month of March.
The ‘Streisand effect’ is something most librarians are familiar with. Although the name may be new, the function is the same. It’s a sort of Heisenberg effect for publicity where the attention you give something you would actually like others to ignore, and that only attracts more attention.
This has happened to the small academic publisher, Edwin Mellen Press, since it decided to sue an academic librarian* over his critical blogging about the relative value of their titles. Since that story broke, EMP has expanded its ‘good will through aggressive litigation strategy’ by sending legal threats to another blog** and setting up sock-puppet comments to fight the negative opinion.
And yes, I am doing this just to see how much effort EMP is putting into this because if they show up here, deep in the cold, anaerobic depths of the unread internets, they really need to re-think their priorities.
*This links to a good summary of the story so-far.
**This covers the most recent episode, with a very handy and informative pdf imbedding the blog entry and comments that were taken down by the blog under threat. The kicker on that one is the appearance of the EMP sock-puppet in the cached comments and the historical note about the 1993 lawsuits. All quite the drama.
I would like to re-blog this interesting post about the many posthumous portraits of that most celebrated survivor of penetrating cranial trauma: Phineas Gage. But it’s rather ‘mature’ in its content of graphic simulated trauma, and while I have a strong stomach for this sort of thing, thanks to my particular academic interests, I can’t assume the same of my readers. So, for the brave, follow the link above.
For the very brave, try and find J. L. Stone, M. H. S. Rifal, and R. A. Moody, ‘An Unusual Case of Penetrating Head Injury with Excellent Recovery’, Surgical Neurology, 15 (1980), pp. 369–71 for an almost identical modern analogue (but with one significant difference which I will not spoil for the intrepid readers with access to medical journal databases).