Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Last Chapters Disappoint - Essay -

Not sure if there is an “information responsibility” message here. 

The weakness of last chapters is in large part a function of the sheer difficulty of devising answers to complex social problems that are sound, practicable and not blindingly obvious. Besides, those who give the most subtle diagnoses may not have the problem-solving disposition needed to come up with concrete, practical recommendations.

But if the rousing what-to-do chapter is usually so disappointing, why do so many books include them? One reason is that editors expect them.

For this blog post, the little editor in my head is demanding some message germane to information responsibility, so here goes:

  • For book authors:  Do not try to be all things to all people.  Realize that an incisive description of a problem is a worthy contribution.  Resist the urge (internal or external) to provide obvious solutions.
  • For book critics:  Praise any non-fiction book that manages to: a) shed light on a problem, b) make clear that the problem will yield to no simple solutions, and c) offers no seat-of-the-pants solutions based on bromides, platitudes, and clichés.  Resist the urge to demand solutions for everything.
  • For readers and other media consumers:  Do not allow news organizations to dismiss books about complex social problems merely because those books do not offer solutions.  Be especially wary of politically motivated news organizations that use this technique to disparage ideas considered distasteful by that organization’s editorial apparatus.


Why Last Chapters Disappoint - Essay -

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