Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Testing, testing...and a word or two on hope, heaven, and Dr. Phil.

This morning I attempted to place the following review of Love Smart on Amazon:

I have now read this book from cover to cover, and there is nothing in there that I (or you) don't already know. It's just plain common sense dressed up in new packaging, and none of it is actionable or likely to be of any functional help in the way you go about living life or finding love. In that respect, it is much like the rest of self-help. And I say that on the basis of a three-year investigation of the genre... Steve Salerno, author, SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless.
I also included the URL for this blog. So far they haven't posted it. Once again, I'm not holding my breath.

Now, what's interesting about this--at least to me; the rest of you are probably getting sick of this whole Amazon intrigue--is that yesterday Amazon posted a four-star review of Love Smart from "real name" reviewer Robin G. Newman of New York, who identifies herself, right in the review, as the author of How to Marry a Mensch (as you know, we do not link to self-help books at SHAMblog), and who also makes reference to her own web site, (I link to the site because you just have to see how fundamentally silly it is). So, if Amazon allows an author from the self-help community to write a pro-Dr. Phil review in which she touts her own wares--but denies a negative reviewer from outside the community the same privilege--what does that tell you?

I know what it tells me. Apropos of which, I have now contacted Amazon's press office, seeking a formal interview with regard to this situation. I'll keep you, well, posted.

Incidentally, I'm wondering how many of you caught last night's Barbara Walters special, Heaven: Where is It? How Do We Get There? I hestitate to open up this can of worms, especially at this time of year, but during the course of a segment, Walters interviewed atheist Ellen Johnson, who offered her perspective on why so many people cling to their belief in heaven despite a near-total lack of scientific evidence for the phenomenon: "People need to believe. They need to have that hope. It's comforting to have that hope. People feel lost without it." I'm not quoting verbatim, but that was the gist. It occurs to me that the same "thinking" underlies the steadfast belief in the promise of self-help, despite all evidence to the contrary. It explains why people will flock to buy Love Smart, even though it entailed almost no research and presents few verifiable facts, and pass up a book like, say, SHAM, which entailed voluminous research and presents a wealth of verifiable facts. Put simply, people need to believe that what Dr. Phil says is true, and don't even want to consider that what SHAM says may be true...because SHAM takes away the false (but sustaining) hope, the easy (but specious) answers. We need to think that a positive attitude will carry the day. We need to think there's light at the end of the tunnel (as is literally the case with those who believe in heaven; and this may surprise you, but I'm still on the fence). The tragedy, though, is that so many of us spend so much time with our eyes focused far down the road, searching for that elusive light, that we miss the simpler (if dimmer) joys right beside us, here and now.


Rodger Johnson said...

Interesting you would take my advice about posting a review and then linking it some how to you book -- blog does fine too. You do know that drawing negative attention to Dr. Phli's book -- does just that -- draws attention to it, which can be bad.

That attention can be bad because truly curious folks are going to buy the book to read the common sense themselves -- cha'ching goes the doctor's bank account.

What you should do is recruit a few people to begin writing favorable reviews of your book and convince those who have blogs -- me -- to create posts and links to your book.

By the way, my blog is averaging 3,000 page views a day; my wife's is even more.

Just some free online PR advice from me to you.

I didn't watched the Walter's special on heaven.

Although I'm clearly on one side of the fence, the program was absurd.

Anonymous said...

Interesting you should hit this topic (religion). I'm an atheist, and I agree with the intervieweee - people NEED religion, and people NEED self-help. My brother in law is a former drug abuser, and he "recovered" by turning to religion. Now, who am I to kick the crutch out from under a cripple, but does that make it any more true? While there may be some useful stuff to some people in SHAM (the movement, not your book - there's LOTS of useful stuff there), does that make it any more true?

And for the record, I refuse to use this forum to debate the existence or nonexistence of a deity.