Wednesday, December 1

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Letters to the Editor

On money-influenced publishing

I was rather astounded to see the prominent front-page article on John F. Staropoli's book ("Staropoli '98 publishes book on the degradation of America," March 9, 1998). It seemed to me an oversight to make no mention of the fact that Vantage Press is a subsidy publisher, a.k.a. a "vanity press," where the major criterion for publication is only that the author pay a rather large sum of money, to cover the costs of the printing run.

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I am glad that Staropoli found writing the book a learning experience (what this world certainly needs is more "whacked-out," conservative streams-of-consciousness, for those who don't find enough of it on talk radio already); and given the breadth of his acknowledged influences, I'm confident that if I'm ever in need of a kitchen sink, I need only pick up a copy of his book. But as publication by a vanity press simply demonstrates how much money one has to spend, and nothing else, I was surprised that it was deemed worthy of such prominent mention by The Daily Princetonian.

Perhaps the editors consider an undergraduate with spending money to be a sure sign of genuine accomplishment? Is this the Princeton ethic? As The New York Times has recently pointed out, many Princeton undergraduates seem to feel that the appearance of virtue, in the form of inflated grades, is part of what they pay for. So perhaps the credulous story by Higgs was not a journalistic oversight but, rather, the unironic telling of the classic Princeton tale: a student gaining the accouterments befitting one of "the best and the brightest" – in exchange for a hefty fee.

It occurs to me that vanity and self-congratulation may have a role in "the degradation of America." Do you think? Timothy D. Kailing, GS

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