One should make distinctions in logrolling. There is the friend helping friend. There is one school of thought helping itself and its allies. And there is reciprocity among colleagues and even strangers. These are harmless enough, even charming in the right context. What is noxious is where "material interests" co-exist with published praise.
Let's take the note that ends many reviews. Currently one might read, "Jane Doe is a professor at Winslow University. She lives in Scottsdale with her two poodles Ike and Mike."
How about, "Jane Doe is a professor at Winslow University. She receives speaking fees from symposia organized by the author here reviewed and has appeared in an anthology edited by him, from which she currently receives royalty checks. She is being considered for a literary prize by a committee on which this author sits."
And when the publisher approaches a periodical for permission to use a reviewer's quote on a dustjacket, there might be conditions attached: (1) You may not remove the reviewer's name from the quote. You may not say, "'Great!' - Washington Post." You must say, "'Great!' - Jane Doe, Washington Post." (2) If the reviewer is not on staff, if it was a piece contributed by someone, you must say, "'Great!' - Jane Doe, special to the Washington Post."
That would cut a lot of the nonsense out. Of course if publishers want to mislead, it's going to be hard to stop them. Consider the OUP and McPherson, an example given yesterday. Consider this bit from the end of promotional text from the University of Massachusetts Press:
Mary Drake McFeely is an independent scholar. She is author of Lady Inspector: The Campaign for a Better Workplace, 1893–1921.
That's the whole thing. May I suggest a revision? A step towards common decency?
Mary Drake McFeely is an independent scholar. She is author of Lady Inspector: The Campaign for a Better Workplace, 1893–1921 and other books. She is also the wife of author William S. McFeely and the mother of W. Drake McFeely, the president of W. W. Norton & Company.
We all understand anyone with a successful spouse or child will want space for their own reputations. But she's in publishing and they are in publishing, so we want a little more light here than U Mass seems willing to give us.
Which brings us back to yesterday's blog. How about a sticker for William McFeely's new Grant book, the one brought out by Norton in November 2003:
Funding for this project authorized by W. Drake McFeely, President of W. W. Norton & Company.
Would Barnes and Noble apply a label like that? Would book page editors even notice? Oh, we do have problems in Civil War publishing.
(Thanks to the reader who pointed out this Norton connection. It does make mere logrolling pale in comparison.)