U.S. Intellectual History Blog

8 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Why aren’t we getting a roundtable on Ratner-Rosenhagen’s _American Nietzsche_, instead of just a review by a single author? To me, this is clearly one of the most important books published in American intellectual history in the last several years. I don’t see why it can’t get the same treatment as Haberski’s _God and War_ or Rodgers’s _Age of Fracture_.

  2. Brian,

    Since I was the book review editor when Jennifer’s book came out, I’ll answer this. In short, it’s both complicated and simple. The decisions about when to conduct a round table, or a review generally, were subjective during my tenure. Moreover, the decision process was less a priori than a posteriori. How?

    Decisions about round tables and reviews could be about the perceived importance of the book, pre-publication buzz, or simple collegiality. The editor (i.e. me) could see, or be told, that the book was either addressing an important topic (e.g. Culture Wars) or was generating a pre-publication buzz. The latter come from both publishers and colleagues. Either factor, among others, could result in an a priori decision to conduct a round table. Since the blog was created as a result of personal connections, we decided that we would try as much as possible to promote each others books when we could. Since there weren’t a lot of us, and since books are published infrequently, we didn’t feel this was a major imposition on our readership (i.e. continual self-promotion and logrolling). These kinds of decisions occurred about 15-20 percent of the time.

    Most times, however, decisions about reviews and round tables were a posteriori. Since this is a part-time, volunteer position, I would decide what to do (about 80-85 percent of the time) based on suggestions from readers and colleagues. Books were suggested for review, and I’d often solicit the suggester to see if he/she wanted to conduct the same. The same process occurred for round tables.

    Why didn’t I suggest a round table for Jennifer’s book? I intended to, in the beginning (last winter). And Jennifer deserves first-rate treatment from our community. She’s been an enthusiast from the start. She attended our first event in Grand Rapids, and has come to all since. I also count her a personal friend.

    So here’s where things get complicated. The same factors that delayed my own review of American Nietzsche (e.g. job hunting, moving, family factors, finishing my own book mss) caused me to lose track of potential initiatives as book reviewer. There was also a sense that Jennifer’s book was getting the appropriate buzz. But that’s less of a factor than everything else, since the same could’ve been said of Rodgers’ Age of Fracture.

    So there it is Brian. I take responsibility for the situation. I think Jennifer’s book is important, and so do many of our colleagues, which is why I’m giving it a long treatment here. My hope is that my own engagement, however imperfect, will make up for any perceived slight.



  3. Brian: It’s a good question. I would welcome a roundtable on Jennifer’s book. It’s certainly not too late. LD is now the book review editor, so she is the person to ask about this. I doubt she’d object–we would just need willing participants. I have a review of “American Nietzsche” coming out in “Reviews in American History,” otherwise I would enlist. Cheers. AH

  4. Brian, as my colleagues have indicated, there’s nothing that says we can’t do a standalone post/review of a work and also do a roundtable. Daniel Rodgers’s book is a perfect example — there were a good 10-15 posts devoted to Age of Fracture in addition to the roundtable from last year’s conference.

    Further, a roundtable on a book on this blog does not imply that we (take your pick on “we” — the book review editor, the blog editor, the publications committee, the blog staff, the S-USIH) believe it is the most important new work in print, or that other books do not also deserve our attention. For example, we never did a roundtable or even a review of Susan J. Pearson’s wonderful book, The Rights of the Defenseless, and it won the Merle Curti award for intellectual history last year. Shame on us, right? Having said that, I would contend that Ray’s book is certainly deserving of the attention it has received here, and I expect it will also be carefully reviewed in other venues.

    When I took over as book review editor in early July, a roundtable on Ray’s book was the first idea proposed to me, and I went with it — not because Ray was a fellow blogger, but because I was glad to have a new project to get started on right away. It certainly helped that Ray was a fellow blogger, and a gracious colleague, because I was learning on the job and making plenty of mistakes. But taking what I learned from that process, I did manage to set up a roundtable on Kerwin Lee Klein’s From History to Theory. Maybe American Nietzsche would have been next in the queue, but when I took over as Publications Committee chair in early September, I decided not to start too many projects for whoever was going to take over as Book Review editor. So I’ve just worked on arranging standalone reviews.

    Way back in July, I set the deadlines for this roundtable so that it could run during this week in particular because I expected that my fellow bloggers and I would be handling last-minute logistical details related to our conference. And, as it turns out, we were doing just that — except we were helping David Sehat with the disheartening task of canceling the meeting.

    So that’s why we aren’t getting a roundtable on American Nietzsche this week.

  5. Thanks for the comments from Tim, Andrew, and LD. First of all, I want to clarify that BY NO MEANS was I trying to imply that either of the books I mentioned above (_God and War_ and _Age of Fracture_) do not deserve a roundtable. In fact, I have purchased and read both of those books cover to cover and I think that both are important and deserve such treatment. Rather, I was just trying to figure out why some important books get the roundtable treatment while others don’t. Thank you, Tim, for explaining your decision; and thank you, LD, for making it clear that we can do both a stand-alone review and a roundtable.

    I have enjoyed all of the roundtables thus far and just want to have more of them. I am looking forward to reading the rest of Tim’s review of _American Nietzsche_, and would be delighted if that book would get its own roundtable, too.

    • Coming from someone who is trying to put together a roundtable, there is also the problem of finding people willing to write a piece for a blog (which, if you’re not familiar with it, may not seem as serious as some other publications).

  6. Brian: You’ll be happy to know that, with Mary Ellen Lennon’s permission (she’s the new book review editor), I’ve begun putting together a roundtable for American Nietzsche. So far Jim Livingston and Corey Robin have agreed to participate. And, of course, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is game! Thanks for the motivation. Cheers. AH

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