Obsolete or Risible Before It Hits The Shelves

The always brilliant Noemie Emery reminds us how difficult it is to write a book about current events: Lead times  and the fast pace of change make the works obsolete if not embarrassingly wrong by the time they hit the shelves.

FEW WEEKS ago, in the New York Post, our friend Peter Wehner had some innocent fun with a book by Jacob Heilbrun titled They Knew They Were Right, the theme of which was the damage done by the neo-conservatives in driving their besotted party and country into a calamitous loss in Iraq. The tone was triumphalist, one might even say snotty, reveling in the disgrace of the author's ideological enemies. Iraq was a mess! Neocons were in purdah! They would never eat lunch in this city again! All true, it would seem, when the book had been written, about the time, one would guess, of the 2006 rebuke.

The fun part came from the fact that by the time it was published, every conclusion made in it was wrong. The military tide had been turned in Iraq, al Qaeda was being roundly defeated, and the plan that had made it all possible had been cooked up by---yes, the neo-conservatives!---who weren't quite so wrong after all. Mocking Heilbrun is fun, but this also suggests a larger phenomenon: things change so fast nowadays that by the time a book about current affairs hits the market, the reality it is describing may well have ceased to exist.
The always brilliant Noemie Emery reminds us how difficult it is to write a book about current events: Lead times  and the fast pace of change make the works obsolete if not embarrassingly wrong by the time they hit the shelves.

FEW WEEKS ago, in the New York Post, our friend Peter Wehner had some innocent fun with a book by Jacob Heilbrun titled They Knew They Were Right, the theme of which was the damage done by the neo-conservatives in driving their besotted party and country into a calamitous loss in Iraq. The tone was triumphalist, one might even say snotty, reveling in the disgrace of the author's ideological enemies. Iraq was a mess! Neocons were in purdah! They would never eat lunch in this city again! All true, it would seem, when the book had been written, about the time, one would guess, of the 2006 rebuke.

The fun part came from the fact that by the time it was published, every conclusion made in it was wrong. The military tide had been turned in Iraq, al Qaeda was being roundly defeated, and the plan that had made it all possible had been cooked up by---yes, the neo-conservatives!---who weren't quite so wrong after all. Mocking Heilbrun is fun, but this also suggests a larger phenomenon: things change so fast nowadays that by the time a book about current affairs hits the market, the reality it is describing may well have ceased to exist.