Disgraced ex–New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer has a new book coming out in May, just two years since a self-plagiarism scandal torpedoed his blossoming career. A co-written venture with credentialed UCLA professor Shlomo Benartzi, The Digital Mind: How We Think and Behave Differently on Screens appears to be a Lehrer-esque pop science self-help book focusing on increasing productivity online — at least according to its product description on Amazon.
Few other details are available about the product, though Portfolio publisher Adrian Zackheim did call Lehrer a “gifted nonfiction writer,” which seems only partly true at best. Benartzi, for his part, said that “Everybody makes [mistakes], and I have made more than my share.”
Careful media-watchers will recall that the fallen boy-wonder already secured another deal with Simon & Schuster for a “Book About Love,” supposedly about lessons learned from his scandal and, um, the importance of love. The publisher now says it’s received a draft from Lehrer, but still hasn’t set a publication date.
News of this latest book deal had the unfortunate timing of dropping right after Hanna Rosin’s insightful profile of disgraced psuedo-journo Stephen Glass for The New Republic, so one can’t help but compare the two. While Glass has spent the last decade repenting, or at least apologizing, for his lies, Lehrer has been mopping up his mess while trying to squeeze as much cash out of it as possible, as if the term hubris still holds no meaning for him.
Fingers crossed that in this case, co-authorship really just means that Lehrer was a glorified line editor, or better yet, a publicity stunt to boost sales. If not, remember: Academia may just be the only place where self-plagiarism is sort of acceptable. (Not the making up quotes stuff, though.)