Five exclamation points

Silke-Maria Weineck in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Is there anything more gratifying to a nice, liberal academic than turning on NPR and hearing them talk about a book you have written? In that lovely, calm, reasonable NPR voice that makes you think all will be well with the world, if only we can all learn to talk to one another in that lovely, calm, reasonable voice?

Not a lot, I would guess, although I myself have gone all the way off the NPR voice, because to me it sounds not so much lovely calm reasonable as soporific, exaggeratedly slow, and determinedly middlebrow. In reality I would of course rejoice at the publicity and expansion of readership, but I bet I wouldn’t much relish the actual discussion. If NPR had ever done a chat about Does God Hate Women? for instance? It would have been massively (however calmly-soporifically) censorious about it. It would have had a nice liberal priest and Linda Sarsour on to discuss and they would have shredded it for being so blunt and unkind and hostile to religion. Come to think of it, I’ve actually done the BBC version of that chat; they had Madeleine Bunting and Humera Khan to do the shredding.

Anyway, that aside, yes it’s highly gratifying to have one’s book discussed on Serious Radio.

And is there anything more aggravating than hearing that voice attribute the book you wrote to your male co-author? The very same voice that interviewed you for half an hour about this very book, of which you wrote the introduction, the first chapter, the last chapter, and the conclusion?

Here is what happened. Over the last year, I teamed up with Stefan Szymanski, a wildly successful sports economist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, to explore a very odd phenomenon: the screeching fury that, across the globe, greets the word “soccer.”…

So of course we were thrilled when Anders Kelto said he wanted to do a segment on it for All Things Considered. Stefan is an old hound at this kind of thing, but I got a huge kick out of going to the little studio in Ann Arbor to get my visitor’s badge, sit down in front of one of those big microphones, put on my headphones, and hear that soothing NPR voice in my ears.

They had a good long detailed conversation.

Saturday morning, we got an email: “Hey Stefan and Silke, Just a quick heads up that NPR is planning to run the ‘football vs. soccer’ story today on Weekend All Things Considered, in case you want to listen live. It’s slated for 5:41 p.m., but just keep in mind that breaking news can cause schedules to change….. Oh, and because of the way the story came together, I was only able to use clips from Stefan — sorry, Silke!!!!!”

I get five exclamation marks! I suspect he would have dotted his i’s with hearts, if he could have. Not that he had anything to do with my erasure: The story just came together that way, you understand; there was no human involvement.

Also, women’s voices are so irritating, right?

I spent the day quietly fuming, but resigned to my fate. After all, I do not have NPR voice, whereas Stefan has a British accent and an established reputation. All I have to show for myself is a measly book prize from the Modern Language Association. Nobody ever wants to hear from the humanities, anyway, including people who say that the humanities are really, really important.

Then I get a text from a colleague who is listening to the story. It starts with “O god,” and informs me that not only are there no quotes from me in the story, as I already know, but that the book is now attributed exclusively to Stefan. My friend has already written to NPR in protest. He thinks I should ask for a retraction.

That cannot be, I think; surely he misheard. Kelto talked to me for half an hour. He has the book. My name is on the cover. Because I wrote half of it…So I go online and find the segment, and there it is: “Stefan Szymanski is the author of a new book, ‘It’s Football, Not Soccer….’”

I listen to the segment in mounting disbelief. It turns out that Kelto wasn’t satisfied to air just one voice on this segment. One guy with a British accent won’t do. Whom else could he possibly ask to comment, to make this an appropriately diverse NPR segment? Yes, he finds another guy with a British accent, who repeats what the first guy with the British accent said.

But there wasn’t room for the other author.

I share this new development with what is by now my Facebook support group. Pretty much all of them write books, so they all understand what it means to hear on NPR about a book you have written but has now been written without you. A bunch of them write to NPR, including the formidably kind (and kindly formidable) Rebecca Solnit of Men Explain Things to Me fame, who knows a thing or two about how this stuff works. One of them demands that Kelto be suspended, but I think he should simply be sentenced to reporting only on women’s work for a year…

Oh, I think for the rest of his career, don’t you?

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