Peri Devaneys new book, A Jew­ish Professor’s Polit­i­cal Pun­dit­ry: Fifty-Plus Years of Pub­lished Com­men­tary by Ron Rubin (Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press), is now avail­able. Peri and Ron, the pro­lif­ic pro­fes­sor she anthol­o­gized, will be blog­ging here this week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

As a book edi­tor, my work had always been behind the scenes. When Ron Rubin (an author I had pre­vi­ous­ly edit­ed for behind the scenes”) asked me to come out from behind and have my name appear on the cov­er of an anthol­o­gy of his works, I nev­er con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­i­ty I might wind up putting myself on the line. 

As I under­stood it, my role as anthol­o­gist would be to cull through the anthologized’s pub­lished mate­ri­als, decide which pieces fit the anthology’s theme, cre­ate abridged” ver­sions for some of the tan­gen­tial works, orga­nize the mate­r­i­al in a sen­si­ble pat­tern, and write a pref­ace and filler blurbs to pro­vide a bio­graph­i­cal back­ground and help the read­er move through the book. 

All went as expect­ed, the man­u­script was sub­mit­ted, and then … 


A review­er for the publisher’s acqui­si­tions depart­ment gave the book a thumbs up” but sug­gest­ed adding a bridge between the last of Rubin’s pub­lished com­men­taries and the book’s pro­duc­tion. Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press’s edi­to­r­i­al com­mit­tee agreed, I dis­cussed the idea of a Post­script” with Dr. Rubin, and he informed me he would glad­ly help me write it. 

Now it’s true I’ve been involved with three books writ­ten by polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sors — two of them on his­tor­i­cal sub­jects and the third a more con­tem­po­rary top­ic — but polit­i­cal sci­ence and his­to­ry are just not my baili­wick. The research for those books was all done by the authors before I ever saw the man­u­scripts, and any fact-check­ing was done by the pub­lish­ers’ edi­to­r­i­al teams. My bach­e­lor’s degree in math, com­put­er sci­ence and sec­ondary edu­ca­tion did not require much research … what lit­tle it did require was done more than forty years ago … and the only research I did as found­ing edi­tor of an IT trade association’s mag­a­zine more than 20 years ago (when I was also the association’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor) involved brain­storm­ing with the pres­i­dent to fig­ure out what top­ics would inter­est our mem­bers and indus­try and which of our ven­dors, mem­bers and tech­ni­cal staff to approach to write the articles. 

My baili­wick is the re-orga­ni­za­tion and re-writ­ing of sen­tences, para­graphs and chap­ters orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten by oth­ers. I’ve tak­en a 600-page man­u­script and with­out remov­ing any con­tent con­densed it into the max­i­mum 400-pages” man­u­script that pub­lish­er want­ed by sim­ply rear­rang­ing and reword­ing the mate­r­i­al. I’ve print­ed out a 365-page man­u­script in order to cut it up into sec­tions — some as small as one sen­tence — so I could put the pieces togeth­er in a way that would grab the read­ers’ atten­tion and keep them inter­est­ed through to the end. 

What writ­ing I’ve done per­son­al­ly has been most­ly for pro­mo­tion­al, mar­ket­ing or fundrais­ing pur­pos­es; the few pub­lished arti­cles I’ve writ­ten were based on per­son­al expe­ri­ences; and if I were to write a book myself, it would almost def­i­nite­ly be fic­tion, prob­a­bly of the fan­ta­sy or mys­tery genre. 

So the task of writ­ing the Post­script to an anthol­o­gy filled with fifty years of polit­i­cal com­men­tary was daunt­ing, to say the least. 

Thank G‑d for the inter­net … for the enor­mous amount of pro-Israel, anti-Israel and anti-Semit­ic junk email” that came into my Out­look as then-admin­is­tra­tor of a high-pro­file Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tion and gave me a good feel for the cur­rent atmos­phere … for the empha­sis the orga­ni­za­tion placed on crit­i­cal think­ing … and for Ron Rubin’s help. It was actu­al­ly fun Yahoo!ing and Googling and sort­ing through the legit news sources and junk; link­ing to, read­ing, eval­u­at­ing and quot­ing mate­r­i­al from con­gres­sion­al and White House reports; delv­ing into Knes­set and IDF web­sites; and more. Once I fin­ished writ­ing the Post­script — The Oba­ma Years: On Whom Can We Rely?” — I real­ized I had enjoyed the accom­plish­ment, but it was still quite nerve-rack­ing to real­ize my per­son­al polit­i­cal lean­ings, such as they are, would be in print for oth­ers to ques­tion, chal­lenge or praise.

And then came the cuts! Both Ron and the pub­lish­er liked the piece, but what I con­sid­ered one of my two most well-researched and cre­ative­ly pre­sent­ed sec­tions was tak­en out by the pub­lish­er com­plete­ly. After a lot of expla­na­tion on their part, I sort of under­stand their con­cerns, but I think much of what they left in has an even greater poten­tial to cre­ate a stir than what they took out. Some­times it scares me to think about the expo­sure — I even thought about writ­ing with a pseu­do­nym — but for the good of the book…

I put myself on the line.

And now it’s on to the next project…

Check back all week for more from Peri Devaney and Ron Rubin.