“Author hopes to elevate level of political discourse by illuminating legal issues surrounding hot-button topics,” claims this article in one of our local papers, The Almanac. The subject is Palo Alto resident Malcolm Friedberg, who’s edited not one but two books of essays on sensitive political issues (such as affirmative action and gay marriage) and “the key Constitutional questions involved.” Both books are titled Why We’ll Win, yet one volume is blue, the other red. That’s right: one volume includes only liberal essays, the other only conservative ones.
It’s a clever idea, but it kinda cuts down on the whole elevation-factor when a book like this contains only one point of view. I was all set to blame Friedberg—just another opportunist taking advantage of the fingers stuffed into America’s collective ears—but it turns out that splitting the essays into two volumes was not Friedberg’s get-rich scheme at all, but instead a decision made by his publisher, Sourcebooks.
This won’t strike you as notable unless you realize that Sourcebooks is our publisher too! And in Why We Read What We Read, we openly and passionately make the case that not reading or considering other points of view is catastrophically rotten for a whole variety of minor things such as people, democracy, and life as we know it.
Now I can’t blame Sourcebooks for this crafty two-volume scheme—of course they are right (sadly) that “books down the middle don’t sell.” And it’s only by putting out books that sell can any publisher afford to take a chance on no-name authors like us. But it’s still startling to see this practical reality in action.
It’s also startling to see a local author get a front-page story in The Almanac when we didn’t get so much as a blurb. What gives?