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Quotable Elizabeth Warren
edited by Frank Marshall
(Click for Amazon book review)
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
This book gives "excerpt books" a bad name. At OnTheIssues, we do like excerpt books because we publish many of them, but we don't like THIS excerpt book. The excerpts are too short � they need context, not just a dozen words and a citation. For example, "Real reform isn't easy. But I also know this: If we don't fight, we can't win -- to the AFL-CIO convention" (p. 117). That's only 16 words � What type of reform? Fight against what? Win what? So much is left out that it's merely a headline, not really an excerpt at all. The brevity of this book makes it feel like the usual mainstream media out-of-context blurbs � meaningless because they are so short.
Worse yet, the editor (he doesn't call himself "author") chooses to split up longer excerpts into several smaller blurbs. For example, we spotted the same citation ("Blog post, January 2014" � what blog? Her own? What context?) on page 22 in the "Financial Bailout" chapter; and on page 46 & 47 in the "American People" chapter. Might we see the fuller context by associating the items split up? An index would do that (this book lacks one), or a cross-reference to the other excerpts from the same citation (this book lacks that too).
Then there's the "date problem." Some citations have dates, while others do not. Often the lack of a date greatly diminishes the context and meaning of the excerpt. For example, in the chapter "On Health Care," an excerpt from Warren's campaign website is cited, "Federal policy is now moving in the right direction" (p. 141). Well, which policy is moving in the right direction? Obama's or Bush's? That would be determined if the year were cited, but it is not. Time-oriented terminology is also not explained, for example, "I support the president's recent actions to help these kids" (p. 153) � that one has a date (June 2012) but no explanation of what that "recent action" is � is the reader supposed to look it up? (We did � Warren meant DACA, the controversial executive order on "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" that President Obama implemented in June 2012 � but the book should explain that, not us!)
And speaking of a lack of explanation, the book also lacks any explanation of "insider terms" � they are just laid out "verbatim," presumably because the author was afraid to change one term in the original context [that is what editorial brackets are for!]. For example, "The CFPB and Warren had become a symbol" (p. 170) � what is CFPB? [it is the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, proposed by Warren in 2007, which became a federal agency in 2011]. And another example, "an audience member� accused her of being a whore aligned with the OWS movement" (p. 178) � what is OWS [it is the Occupy Wall Street movement]. That is fine for pundits who know all those terms � but it feels like "Inside Baseball," where no one can follow the story in less than a week, to normal readers. Perhaps a glossary would be useful � there isn't one � or some sort of explanation � there isn't any � so the reader isn't left confused.
All of our complaints are encapsulated all in one excerpt � an undated citation from "Indian Country Today" asserting that "if one has to research to try and ascertain if they are Native American, I would have great concerns� and wonder if that was a vehicle she would want to use to her benefit. If that is the case, shame on her" (p. 201). Well, IS that the case? The opinion of the writer in "Indian Country Today" is certainly relevant � the issue at the time was whether Warren had cited her Native American heritage to get an affirmative-action appointment at Harvard University � but the reader doesn't get to see the writer's opinion, or an explanation of the context of the dispute, or its outcome, or even what year the excerpt was written, so we might figure out if the outcome was still pending at that time, or what was going on.
This book holds valuable lessons for anyone considering writing a similar book: Read this book to see every possible type of error one could make in a book of excerpts. OnTheIssues takes those lessons to heart, and our excerpt books follow these rules:
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, Aug. 2016
edited by Frank Marshall.
Page last edited: Feb 21, 2019