I for one am very pleased that consciousness has become a topic for discussion amongst the literati. I welcome the accessible writing of David Armstrong, Susan Blackmore, Andy Clark, Tim Crane, Dan Dennett, Gerald Edelman and Stephen Pinker to name but a few of the more prominent popular expositors. But I cringe at the dreadful hyperbole that publisher’s insist on generating. A case in point is Random House’s blurb on the forthcoming book by Jeff Warren entitled The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness. Here is the offending excerpt:
Part user’s manual and part travel guide, The Head Trip is an instant classic, a brilliant summation of consciousness studies that is also a practical guide to enhancing creativity, mental health, and the experience of what it means to be human. Many books claim that they will change you. This one gives you the tools to change yourself.
Wow – an instant classic, eh? Move over Dave Chalmers! :) The ultimate “how to” book” - a staple of tabloid TV – it promises that the reader’s humanity might also be enhanced. Rollover Shakespeare and tell Goethe and Kafka the news.
Whatever the virtues of Warren’s book may be, this sort of pompous promotion is annoying. Not to mention the “hip” title and an annoying subtitle. To be fair this rash of subtitling books is as much a part of the academic industry (it may well have begun here) as it is a part of the popular publishing industry. These pseudo literary titles are no more than a crass marketing ploy to “sex-up” the product. I liken these subtitles to the blurb in an art exhibition catalogue “telling me what the painting is really about”. This is pure condescendence: a general reader is ostensibly already interested in the inherent complexities of the subject matter.