Friday, May 04, 2007

Deconstructing Drake.

The PR wire crackles today with The Art of Office War, the latest from one Simon Drake, who prepped for his foray into the elite regions of career-building strategy by writing, previously, Love Data, which tells the story of an "inventor with futuristic vices" who tries to "bring back a dead lover." (NOTE: Though one assumes from his spellings that Drake is a Brit, he does not appear to be the same Simon Drake who practices magic in London and thereabouts.) Without further ado, I provide below my comments on his release, and translations thereof as appropriate.

"The Art of Office War is a guide to navigating behaviour and politics to get where and what You want...."
TRANSLATION: "Here's another book, like The Secret, that gives you permission to be as narcissistic as humanly possible."

"...It empowers knowledge workers…”
COMMENT: I'd supply a translation here, if the line had any meaning.

"…and explains how and why colleagues compete, the methods they use, and what You can do for your own advantage...."
TRANSLATION: "Because—did I mention this already?—we know that it's ALL and ONLY about YOU! [and with a capital Y, no less!]"

"...Reviews range from 'Insightful and funny…' to '… Drake's evidence of having worked within both the corporate and public arenas is clear. His metaphor of the office as a battlefield is pinpoint accurate…"
COMMENT: His metaphor? Has the man never heard of Clausewitz? Larry Donnithome? The "business-as-war" model has been entrenched in American commerce for decades, at least. One of my most valuable sources for SHAM, Jay Kurtz (of KappaWest), was already a leading figure in business wargaming when I first met him in Orange County, Calif., circa 1984.

"...and 'The more you read, and the longer you work in offices, the funnier it gets!'..."
TRANSLATION: "This is what I think of my own book. If these were testimonials from real people whose names meant anything to you, I'd attribute these quotes to them by name."

"...The author, Simon Drake..."
TRANSLATION: "Meaning me, which is to say, the guy who wrote this glowing press release about himself."

"...explains the appeal, 'For many people the office is they make or break it..."
TRANSLATION: "I could really use a good proofreader. You know any?"

"...The Art of Office War provides real solutions to real problems, without dumbing down its message to please the masses..."
TRANSLATION: "My writing is completely self-indulgent." And: "Though I'm keeping my hopes up, I don't really expect too many people to buy this book."

"...If you seek answers to your problems, this is the book for you...”
COMMENT: Gee, now where have I heard that before?

"...The edge of The Art of Office War is that unlike most self-help and how to books, it is independently published. As Simon explains, 'In writing The Art of Office War I gathered so many opinions, ideas and facts from people that I realized I had a dangerous title on my hands… Publishers don't like risk, they want safe titles that don't pull punches, but I could, so the book is out there for others to profit from and enjoy."
TRANSLATION: "I couldn't find a publisher. No one was willing to bring out this book. So I paid to have it done myself."


Anonymous said...

And so we have yet another book with a "catchy" title, that tries to convince people that there is a problem and then - voila! - provides a solution. They will never give up, will they? - SpacePastry

Steve Salerno said...

Not as long as there are people willing to write the checks, they won't.

Anonymous said...

Love your comments, so funny! Thanks.
Vanessa Biard from Paris

Simon Drake said...

I am Simon Drake, I stand by The Art of Office War and welcome criticism and yes I published the book myself (with the help of colleagues reviewing the many manuscripts) and I do have credible reviews. Though you draw humour from picking to bits my hard work I won’t do the same to you. The judge, we know, is not the witty critic but the public – so read The Art of Office War. I didn’t write it to boost my own ego. I wrote it to share sentiment, information and realities about a serious subject few of us can escape – work.

Steve Salerno said...

Simon, first of all, thanks for weighing in under your true name--if indeed it is you. I tend to be reluctant to publish comments from people who claim to be the people I'm writing about; given the shield of anonymity the internet provides, you never really know, and I always worry about the REAL people showing up later and crying foul. However, your comments are sufficiently tame and non-controversial that I felt OK about approving them, here.

Look, my post was obviously satirical, and well within the bounds of fair comment. (Lord knows some people were a LOT nastier in reviewing my own book.) If you've read SHAM, or even heard of it (it was co-published in the UK by Brealey and widely publicized in the London Times, etc.), you shouldn't have expected me to be especially fond of a book like Art of Office War. But I'm sure you realize here that I was mostly having some fun with your press release, more than the book per se.

I wish you well nonetheless--there's nothing personal here; I don't know enough about you for that--and I'd be happy to consider any other rebuttals you may wish to submit, provided you stay within the guidelines of my blog.

Simon Drake said...

Your blog and my book are interesting entrants in the evolving world of Media and Publishing, respectively. And, we’re both being rather brave because we’re taking the risk and putting our concepts out there, ready and willing to take a slapping!
Names like SHAM, SHAMblog and The Art of Office War are pretentious and our views may push the envelope of what the mainstream would deem acceptable but we do live in a free world and criticism is all part of communicating. Bring it on! Though, across the Atlantic and the Pacific (I’m an Australian living in London), we wonder, do Americans have a sense or irony?
PS: I’ll read your book, you read mine.

Steve Salerno said...

All right. Done deal.