Sunday, May 29, 2011

Two Complaints about Gretchen Morgenson

I haven't read Gretchen Morgenson's new book (with Joshua Rosner) though it sounds promising and I probably will.  But based on what I hear and read, I've got two beefs that won't go away.

One: title versus content.   We've got here what the Brits would call a violation of the Trade Descriptions Act.  It's called "Reckless Endangerment," with the hubba hubba subtitle "How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon."  By all accounts I have seen, it is nothing of the sort: it is an account of Fannie Mae, its rise and inglorious collapse, together with a (partial?) account of the damage the collapse did to the rest of us.  This is a worthy topic, but Fannie Mae is only one part of the problem: even if the biggest part, you can't tell its story without telling the stories of a dozen other players in this long, slow, suicidal game.  
I feel the author's pain: the collapse is a blind-man-and-the-elephant problem and it's inconceivable that any one authorial team is going to capture the whole--they'd be foolish to try.  But would it kill ya to concede the point--to note that (per Robert Reich) you don't even mention Joseph L. Cassano (AIG) or Richard Fuld (Lehman).  And, that by what I've seen, you give only bit-player status to so many others who could take (and sometimes do take) center stage in accounts of their own.

And two: the title itself.  Is there some kind of rule among publishers that you have assisgn titles so anodyne that the reader can't remember which is which?  I mean, be fair: would you look at a book called "Reckless Endangerment" and say "oh, Fannie Mae."  Hell, you might not even say "oh, financial crisis":  the title would work just as well on account of, say the Japanese nuclear  industry.  And for comparison, can you guess without peeking what is the subject of Money and PowerFatal RiskPanicCrash of the TitansThe Monster?   Aren't they pretty much interchangeable?  Note that this may be in part a technological issue: in the old days, I could at least pick up some visual cues from my bookshelf, but now I can never remember where to find them on my Kindle.  But still....

Afterthought: A well wisher points out that the Kindle app on my Iphone and on my laptop does contain cover views.  Point taken.  

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