Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Should All Books Be Published With Criticism?

Mein Kampf, the hate-filled political manifesto written by Germany’s one-time powerful ruler, Adolf Hitler, is the second best-selling non-fiction book in Germany.  That’s quite a rebound for a book that was banned for 70 years.  Maybe absence does make the heart grow founder.  People want what they can’t get.  When a new Germany had a chance to read and own what generations since World War II could not get, it went wild.  Should such a book be banned or printed is not the subject for this piece, but for the record I don’t believe in banning a book, no matter how offensive or explosive.  What’s interesting about there-launch of The Fuhror’s diatribe is that Germany required any republishing of the book must be accompanied by criticism.  This means the book contains someone else’s words – other than that of the author’s and those words contrary to any other book published, must undermine, damn, and protest the very words in the book.  Should such a requirement be made of other books?  Of all books?

I remember reading Mein Kampf, sans the criticism, while a young boy in junior high school.  I was probably 13, a Jewish Brooklyn boy, reading it some 35 years since the world’s bloodiest war ended, one that almost wiped out the planet's oldest religion.  Now it’s another 35-36 years since that reading.

It’s an interesting concept – to attach criticism, analysis, or a review of a book to the book itself. This could solve a few problems, while creating others.

First, who’d choose who writes the criticism and who edits what’s said?  I don’t want phony criticism or soft analysis being passed off as real, unbiased scrutiny.

Second, should we have a critic to respond to the critical analysis, also in the book?  Maybe the critic made a mistake or substituted opinion and prejudice for fact and fairness?

Third, would the attached criticism get revised over time?  For instance, tastes change, perspectives are altered with the uncovering of new facts, and time passing allows for new insights to sprout up.

Maybe putting criticism into a book’s foreword or conclusion would help readers better understand what they just read.  Young, impressionable minds should know the other side to hotly debated political, religious, and social welfare topics.  Just as newspapers have an editorial and an op-ed and letters-to-the-editor available for the sharing of diverse viewpoints on a news story, maybe books need to allow for equal time as well.

But something seems wrong about the idea of adding comments and writings of others to a book. This isn’t a food review site, where you try to weigh whether to eat somewhere based on the quantity and quality of reviews.  A book is an author’s creation. An author has no obligation to acknowledge “the other side” or be forced to have someone criticize them. 

Free speech can’t be forced – we can’t require authors to get someone else to incriminate their work.  But wouldn’t the reader be served well if he or she can consider all sides, all facts in one-stop-shopping books?

Maybe authors need to do a better job of examining all views and facts – and to do less advocating.  But if the author is reduced to being a researcher and blandly stating information that requires readers to determine their fate, what good is the writer if he doesn’t speak up, connect the dots, and not only share judgment but also offer solutions, raise questions, or whine about something?

Mein Kampf requires criticism in order to give readers a better perspective of the historical significance – and mistaken beliefs – of Hitler. Or should that book be treated like all other books  -- and be published freely without scolding or explanation?

What’s next, publication of the Koran with a line-by-line  criticism?  Will the Islamaphobics blame a religion for terrorism and publish their Bible with Kampf-like annotations?

Maybe someone will reprint our Constitution and then contain side-by-side criticism of how our government is corrupt, prejudiced, and incompetent.

Actually, I can see a whole book line dedicated to containing criticism and setting the record straight.  Imagine Trump or Clinton or Cruz having criticism printed inside their own books.  Or if every memoir included a chapter by the subject’s critic?  Now that would make for interesting reading, create controversy, and begin to better inform the reading public.

Hitler was one of the most despised human beings and his book may be nothing but hate, lies, and crazy thoughts but God Bless America. Every voice deserves to be heard, and all books should be published without the requirement of criticism.  But it is an interesting idea, especially if taken up voluntarily.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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