Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Forgotten Book


Preceded Cohen's book by 11 years

One of the nice things about being a Times editor or writer like Roger Cohen, former head of the foreign desk, is that any book you write will be reviewed. And not just reviewed, but reviewed favorably--often by both the daily and Sunday book review sections. That is true whether you write tedious drivel, like Chris Hedges' odious War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, or a decent tome such as Cohen's account of Americans imprisoned in concentration camps, Soldiers and Slaves. The latter book was reviewed in the Times today (a rave, natch) by Tom Brokaw (another perk of being a Times editor-author is that your books get reviewed by Tom Brokaw and not Tom Shmidlap).

I'm sure Soldiers and Slaves is a good book. But contrary to what you might think if you read Brokaw's review, this is not the very first account of Americans imprisoned in the camps. Forgotten Victims by Mitchell G. Bard, published in 1994, laid out the whole grisly story in compelling detail.

Isn't that remarkable? Not one but two Times reviews, and neither mentioned that the story of GIs in concentration camps was told a decade ago. Neither Brokaw nor the review in the Sunday section on May 1 mentioned Bard's book, which is still in print for heaven's sake!

Brokaw misleadingly lumps in Cohen's book with "the discovery of the little-known episodes that constantly expands our appreciation, fascination and revulsion for the brutal clash of civilizations in the heart of the 20th century." If anybody did any "discovering," it was Bard, not Cohen.

I haven't seen Soldiers and Slaves, but I have to presume that he gave due credit to Bard's previous work. Whether he did or not, the two Times reviewers, particularly given the fact their reviews were a well-known Times courtesy, should have mentioned Bard' s book. They should not have implied, as they did, that Cohen's book was in any way exclusive or original. That was unfair to Bard and does readers a disservice.

Just for the heck of it I'm forwarding a copy of this item to the Times. Let's see if they run a correction or clarification (duly crediting this blog, of course!). Don't hold your breath.....
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