Enlightenment roundup

First off, I’ll be in Ottawa on Sunday April 27th, doing a Q&A with Andrew Potter about Enlightenment 2.0 for the Ottawa Writers Festival. It’s at 6:30pm in Knox Presbyterian church (event details here). Also, I’m looking forward to attending the talk by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan from Samara, just before mine, 4pm at Knox Presbyterian, discussing their new book Tragedy in the Commons. A great evening for all those who want to get together and wring their hands about the state of democracy!

In other news, here’s a half-hour podcast of me chit-chatting about the book, with The Commentary in B.C.

And there’s been a batch of reviews:

National Post, “Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath: Review” by Benjamin Leszcz

Toronto Star, “Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath: Review” by Alex Good.

There is also a very gratifying review by Ivor Tossell at the Globe and Mail (“Is it time for a renaissance of reason?“). I say gratifying because he correctly identifies all of the major flaws in the book, and yet is (thankfully!) willing to forgive, because of the “big picture” that emerges.

A wise editor once told me always to err on the side of writing too much and being too exuberant, on the grounds that it’s much easier to cut things out and tone them down than it is to add things later and pump them up. So that’s what I do — particularly with trade books, where one has the advantage of a professional editor to decide what to cut. Because of this, Enlightenment 2.0 had around 30,000 words cut out of it before going to print. One of the things that got cut was the first chapter, on the grounds that it was too didactic. So I couldn’t help but be amused by Tossell’s observation:

The book is most engaging where he turns his attention to philosophy and history of reason itself, which unfortunately arrives piecemeal. Reading Enlightenment 2.0 feels a bit like arriving in a professor’s lecture in the third week of a course, and being left to piece together what we missed

That’s exactly right! I wrote the first draft the way I would present a lecture course, with a nice historical summary of “reason through the ages” starting with Plato and ending with Freud. This was subsequently cut, on the grounds that it didn’t start to become clear until about page 50 of the book where I was going with it all. I’m not unhappy with that cut — the books gets more interesting more quickly than it otherwise would have. But it does tend to make it less intellectually tidy.

Tossell also says:

Most frustratingly, he skimps on the history of how American conservatism, that great enigma of our times, arrived at the proudly irrational place that it did.

To which I say “arghhh!” — that part got cut out too. I had a whole big schtick on that! I was a bit less happy with that cut, but paper is expensive, and Harpercollins was already being incredibly generous by publishing a 130,000 word book. (The basic economics of book publishing is that anything over 250 pages basically comes out of the publisher’s margins — since you can’t charge more for a 350 page book than a 250 page book, it just adds to the production costs. Electronic publishing obviously eliminates this constraint –for better or for worse.)

Anyhow, this review make me think I should clean up some of these parts that got cut out and put them on the internet, especially that first chapter. That’s what I did with my last book as well.

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