Saturday, October 29, 2005

I Get Letters

Upon completion of "Big Fat Liars," I wrote the following brief note to NPR's Scott Simon to inquire as to his authorship of the foreword to the book:

"Is the Scott Simon who wrote the preface to Morris Chafetz's "Big Fat
Liars" the same Scott Simon who hosts WES? If so, is he (Scott Simon)

Well, it now appears that he's been Faurissoned. Here's his response:

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for contacting NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. Below is Scott's response to your inquiry:

Several years ago, I consented to do a favor for the father of an old friend and write a letter in support of a book proposal by Dr. Morris Chafetz. Dr. Chafetz has had a long, active, and generally esteemed career in education about alcoholism, which has been a problem in my family. Years ago, when I was a child, Dr. Chafetz tried to help my father overcome his drinking problem. My father was not successful, but I remained grateful for Dr. Chafetz' help. His son Adam and I have become friends. Dr. Chafetz has served on numerous presidential and medical committees that have dealt with addiction problems. I believe strongly in alcoholism education and

Dr. Chafetz furnished me with about sixty pages that his agent was going to shop around for his book proposal. The burden of his argument was, as it was with alcoholism, that self-anointed experts, including himself, must be regarded skeptically, and that there is no substitute for personal responsibility (this is also a tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous). I wrote a note saying it was an argument that deserved to be heard, being careful to begin by saying, "I don't agree with all of the conclusions in this book, and I think the author might be delighted by my caution."

I was not paid for my letter of support. I write several such letters a year. I do so to encourage the traffic ideas, or yes, as a favor to friends. Some books wind up being published; most have not. Over the past couple of years, I have also written the forward to a book of British poetry and a cartoon collection, as well as my own latest book.

I lost touch with Dr. Chafetz for the most peculiar reason--the gym we both used to go to closed. I remain friends with his son.

I gather that Dr. Chafetz finally found a publisher, finished the book, and it has now appeared under the title, Big, Fat Liars. I do not like that title, but I was not consulted. I do not think would not have written a letter of support for a book proposal with that working title.

My letter of support has been converted into a foreword. I was not paid to write a foreword, or informed of the book's appearance. I am glad that my affiliation with NPR is not mentioned; it certainly was not in the letter.

My agent is investigating the matter, and I do not rule out a legal case. A legal case against the father of an old friend who once tried to help my father overcome his drinking problem would give me no pleasure, but may be necessary.

Clearly, Dr. Chafetz added a lot of material to the sixty-some pages that I saw. I do not necessarily agree with any of his arguments. But I would draw any reader's eye to the last line of his book: "The faults and criticisms are mine and should be directed to me."

I gather that the book has been out since March, and find it significant that I have not heard anything about it until now.

with best regards,

Scott Simon

Kudos to Scott Simon for not having intentionally supported such a terrible book. Once bitten, twice shy, I expect.


Blogger sexyretard said...

Well THAT'S not good. I wonder, though, whether writing a letter supporting a book not yet finished, and saying something about not agreeing with everything in the book, might have been premature.

If I could regress the conversation back to a couple of points related to smoking, however, I'd like to.

I was debating through another blog (a far inferior one, of course) the impact of cigarettes and early deaths, with the subsequent affect on nursing home care, Alzheimer rates, and social security payments.

I have a few questions that I'd like to toss out there, and wonder if anyone knows of any pertinent research.

1-Do the premature deaths of smokers positively affect the social security situation?

2-Does anyone ever quit smoking, gain 100 pounds, and die of issues related to type 2 diabetes?

3-Is question 2 ever seriously considered?

4-Do smokers spend more or less time in nursing homes than non-smokers?

5-How expensive is lung cancer treatment compared to other medical treatments?

5:32 PM  
Blogger Germanicu$ said...

Interesting question you raise: Are smokers really the drain on public resources we claim them to be? Or is their general ill health and early death actually saving us all some money we'd otherwise have to spend on them vis a vis nursing home care, SS payments?

Frankly, I'm surprised the question would ever come to mind for someone who believes that Every Human Life is precious and should be valued.

Sounds like you're trying to build a case based on a set of conclusions some non-existent data has yet to provide. Dr. Chafetz would be proud!

One thing Morris alluded to is quite true: If the American Lung Assn and other such organizations started gathering the sort of data you're seeking, their very lucrative gig would be up.

10:57 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...


Just because human life is precious does not mean that humans should not have the right to engage in behavior that is bad for them. I don't put up human life as the ultimate value, especially not the length of that human life. I have a moral objection to euthanasia but don't think it ought to be illegal. Similarly, I think smoking is "bad," but it's none of my business. We might just as well tell people what they can eat and tax people by how much they weigh.

I think there would be statistics on the questions I raise if people with money and backing were willing to do such a study, but any academic trying to would likely be called names and the cigarette companies are dodging enough lawsuits as it is. As it is, I am forced to argue from ignorance because relevant data is quite likely unattainable.

Now, let me drop the bomb and tell you that I absolutely could be convinced that smoking costs our society billions, doesn't keep anyone from getting Alzheimer's, doesn't lead to increased risks of type 2 diabetes, etc., and that I would probably think a bit differently on the matter.

I am somewhat surprised that my skepticism is so unusual, given that I'm the believer around here.

11:43 AM  

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