Encouraging Jonah Lehrer to return to publishing is not much different than ushering a gambling addict back to a craps table and telling him to have better luck this time. The game will not likely end well.
Something in his makeup triggers in the disgraced neuroscientist unacceptable, compulsive behavior when he’s at a keyboard (and maybe elsewhere?), and it would seem he’d be best served by laboring in a different vocation while dedicating the many years it will take to figuring out the source of his waywardness. The plagiarist and fabulist doesn’t need to disappear from the face of the earth or anything, but it’s probably good to keep him a safe distance from the dice.
Lehrer has just written A Book About Love, which, Simon & Schuster would like you to know, is a book about love. Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews the title in her usual sharp, lucid manner, finding an author who hasn’t truly reversed course but merely shifted. An excerpt:
In retrospect — and I am hardly the first person to point this out — the vote to excommunicate Mr. Lehrer was as much about the product he was peddling as the professional transgressions he was committing. It was a referendum on a certain genre of canned, cocktail-party social science, one that traffics in bespoke platitudes for the middlebrow and rehearses the same studies without saying something new.
Apparently, he’s learned nothing. This book is a series of duckpin arguments, just waiting to be knocked down. …
As for the question that’s on everyone’s mind — did Mr. Lehrer play by the rules in this book? — I think the answer is complicated, but unpromising.
In an author’s note, Mr. Lehrer says that he se”nt his quotes to everyone he interviewed and that his book was independently fact-checked. And it’s true that this book contains far more citations than his previous work.
But I fear Mr. Lehrer has simply become more artful about his appropriations.•