Let’s put some cards on the table: I’m not a fan of Ann Coulter. I think her shtick was played out a decade ago. With each passing season, Coulter’s desperate efforts to stay in the news by uttering ever more outrageous statements tipped over into full-blown bigotry a loooong time ago. For example, this is from her latest book:
It’s her new book about Donald Trump I want to talk about, however, because it highlights a nightmare scenario that any academic or nonfiction book author should recognize.
Writing a book takes prodigious amounts of effort and time. The amount of time can be divided into the years it takes to write and revise and revise and revise and revise and revise the book and the months it takes to publish it.
If one is writing a book about current affairs, that second part is the worst. Even for best-selling authors, there is a period of time between when one is done with the writing and when the book comes out. For academics, that gap between writing and publishing can be a year or longer. During that time, things can happen that completely subvert a book’s arguments. I was pretty sure I was right when I wrote “The System Worked,” for example, but in the eight months between handing in the final draft and the book’s arrival in stores, I was petrified that the WTO would dissolve or the IMF would fall apart and I’d go down as the Norman Angell of my time.
The reason I bring up this dilemma for book authors is that Ann Coulter writes the following words on page 3 of her new book about how Trump is awesome: “there’s nothing Trump can do that won’t be forgiven. Except change his immigration policies.”
Given Trump’s gyrations on immigration this week, this is such an unfortunate sentence. It leads to sad headlines like, “Trump Betrayal of Ann Coulter Timed Perfectly to Release of Ann Coulter Book About Always Trusting Trump” and sad pictures of Coulter steeling herself to give book talks and angry Coulter tweets at Trump:
So, to sum up: Ann Coulter has had a book come out this week about how Trump is awesome, built on a thesis that Trump managed to eviscerate just as the book was released.
Like Rush Limbaugh (words I never thought I would type in that order), my first reaction upon hearing that sentence was to be expected:
Watching Coulter go through the five stages of grief in the span of 24 hours has also been a gift from the schadenfreude gods.
Yet as Coulter has finally arrived at the realization that she can’t abandon Trump, I can’t fully commit to savoring her discomfort. As a fellow author, I still feel some small measure of sympathy for her. I have a book coming out in nine months that is about 90 percent finished. I think my book is better than Coulter’s, but no author should be so arrogant as to think that their premises won’t be undercut between the writing and the publishing.
Right now, as I type these words, Coulter is currently experiencing every nonfiction author’s nightmare. In many ways, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. But it also shows that it can happen. Much like the graduate student who goes to sleep petrified that a senior scholar will publish a better version of their thesis before they complete their dissertation, I will fret over the next nine months that I will experience Coulter’s sad fate.