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And Then There Is Albania

Great review for my friend Marc Fisher. Douglas Brinkley calls his book an "elegantly written and deeply researched study of how radio has shaped American culture." The Times review, however, is irritating. The reviewer, Dave Marsh, concedes that it's a valuable book, but spends most of the review showing off his own knowledge of radio, and complaining that Fisher's book ignores various things that Marsh would presumably have included had he written such a book. Like, there's nothing about Latin radio. Apparently Marsh was under the impression that he was reviewing a textbook, or an encyclopedia. This is why you should never let the expert review a book. Books aren't written for experts, they're written for readers, and the one sure way to make a good book unreadable is to make it comprehensive.

This is known among a few of us in the business as The Albanian Problem. The term comes from a remark by John Le Carre to another colleague, way back when. This colleague had written a terrific book, but perhaps it was a bit too broad, too sweeping. Le Carre, choosing his words carefully, said of the book, "There is a tendency to be comprehensive. 'And then there is Albania'."

(For younger folks out there: Back in the days of the Cold War, we were supposed to keep track of all the variants and flavors and manifestations of Communism in such far-flung places as Slovenia and Cambodia and Lithuania and Albania and whatnot.)

So here's the Times reviewer on Fisher's book: "There's nothing about CKLW, in Windsor, Ontario, which was the No. 1 station in both Detroit and Cleveland for more than a decade."

Right. But that's because that station broadcasts in Albanian.

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Very sorry to hear that Molly Ivins is ailing. She's been an important and often hilarious voice during the Bush era.

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FYI, I'm giving a talk at the Corcoran on Feb. 7, on Surviving the Age of Bad Information. I've got a title (the aforementioned "Surviving the Age of Bad Information") and actually have material already on paper, about Bad Information, and our need to survive it. In this age. So you see I'm way ahead of the game, though I'm looking for examples of recent outbreaks of Bad Information. Please send to achenbachj@washpost.com.

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Last night in the boodle there was some discussion of the finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World. It's a pretty good list, but there are so many places that didn't make the cut that might have deserved a spot. The Louvre comes to mind (not to take anything away from the Eiffel Tower). The Golden Gate Bridge. Any of those deep-water oil drilling rigs. The space shuttle. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN. I can't decide betwixt the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, so let's just say Midtown Manhattan, which incorporates the Chrysler Building and the NY Public Library and Grand Central Station and of course the subway. (I hear the Moscow subway is pretty impressive, too.) What about Japan's bullet train? For obvious reasons I'm partial to the C&O Canal.

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 29, 2007; 11:22 AM ET
 
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