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
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
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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.