I’ve been watching the debate surrounding Sharon Sandburg’s Lean In with much interest. Feminist manifesto, or yet another ghost-written business book full of narcissistic blather? Probably both! It probably does speak to the sad state of feminism in my thinking at the moment that I think it may be just be a good sign in the world that a successful business WOMAN gets to act like the gigantic preening blowhard at party for a change. Since I still haven’t read it, I may be being grossly unfair, but I have to admit, I’ve gotten awfully cynical about reading everything that crosses my path. You read anything by business people or politicians…and you pretty much know you are getting the same ghostwriters schilling the same “do what I do and succeed” puff.
That said, I got a kick out of Noreen Malone’s commentary about the breathlessly overblown, name-dropping acknowledgments section of Sandberg’s book:
Sandberg is not entirely to blame: As a first time author, she was merely following recent convention. And as a high-achiever, she was merely outdoing everyone else who has written an acknowledgment section in the past few years. Where readers used to see, perhaps, a paragraph thanking the writer’s editor and agent, a few key researchers, and maybe a family member or two, now we are confronted with a chapter-long laundry list of name after name. Sandberg’s seven-and-a-half page section, for instance, thanks more than 140 people for contributing to her 172 page book. She doesn’t just thank her superagent, she thanks her superagent’s boss, Ari Emanuel, “for his friendship as well as his ever-amusing and supportive check-in calls.” She doesn’t just thank her editor, she thanks “Sonny Mehta, editor-in-chief of Knopf, whose unflagging support kept this project on the fast track.”
And, of course, Sandberg alludes to the real point of all that seeming gratitude:
She also lets us know that Scovell wasn’t the only person who adjusted her schedule. Harvard Professor Hannah Riley Bowles “interrupted her vacation to spend hours on the phone discussing her work,” a description that was surely meant to express genuine gratitude, but mainly just clarifies the global pecking order.
I, too, would like to thank Oprah. She’s been swell.