Reviewing A Bright Shining Lie's author
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The New York Times today ran a review of Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie, though I don't see it as a review of the pending book as much as a review of the author and his methodology. I found that approach interesting, as it was a new one to me. I read plenty of books but don't often read about books. I know when a new movie is announced or about to be released, the director's filmography is often analyzed as a method of predicting his style and success with the new film; it never occurred to me the same sort of articles could be written about authors.
I couldn't tell if the reporter meant to cast Mr. Sheehan in any particular light. The constant referrals to his nocturnal ways seemed intended to enforce the stereotype of writers as those who work when the inspiration strikes, keeping ungodly hours. I half-expected the photo of Mr. Sheehan to have him either hidden in cigarette smoke or sitting at a typewriter. I walked away with more of an impression of the author than the book, though I would've liked more of the latter; instead I was thinking about watching Fail-Safe again.
Perhaps the NYT thought they made up for that lack with the sidebar referencing the online excerpt. Rather than the exclusive sale of serial rights from the publisher to the newspaper, the online version of the story simply links to RandomHouse.com. Is this the typical sort of pre- release coverage for a book? Or are advance copies/galleys supplied to critics?
[Update: On October 4, the "excerpt" link was changed to within the NYTimes.com domain, suggesting Random House's online excerpt was a limited-time exclusive.]