Wednesday, January 7, 2009


So, apparently I have been so lax with this blog that I'm getting orders from family members to make a post. Hasn't much been going on in my life, I've been swamped by work + dissertation.

However, I will take a moment and rant about "journalistic" works of non-fiction. There's an interesting irony here.

In the academic world, where credentials are gained and then re-established over and over, everything gets referenced. Facts, quotes, interesting anecdotes, everything has a source. Extensive footnotes, indexes, and bibliographies are de rigeur within academic publishing. So when John Keegan writes about World War II, Margaret Mead wrote about Samoan culture, or Einstein wrote about relativity, their expertise in the field didn't matter one whit - they still documented everything they said or claimed.

In journalism, where someone can win the Pulitzer prize for an essay on the US Olympic swimming team (totally out of my ass on that example), that same person goes on to write a book about the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, and just throws facts and quotes around willy-nilly, with the reader trusting that this author knows what they're talking about, and they're credentials inevitably read "Pulitzer Prize winning author," as if that has any relevance other than their ability to write an insightful piece... once. No footnotes, no references, rarely a bibliography. And really, to me, that's just insulting, and completely defeats the purpose of a non-fiction book.

I want to read a book to A) learn about a subject, but (much more important) B) find other sources of interesting facts I can follow up on. Without footnotes, I'm just reading someone's mental masturbation.

1 comment:

Momagain said...

I have to ask you to cite the author in question so I can look at his (her) work. Did the same author write about the Olympics as wrote about the Vietnam war?