It arrived last night in a little Amazon box, alongside the cacao nibs I had ordered for Willow's baking. A brand new book. I hadn't heard of its author before the ASTR conference last November, but the mention got my attention, and I found that I had two essays by her in various collections in my office, both essays I had been meaning to read.
Let's just say (to poach the metaphor from Ianqui. Really I'm just doing this because I like the metaphor, not that I am actually hiding my work) that I do work on Photographs of Trees, specifically evergreen trees. My book (the one I'm working on) has three sections: Photos of the Insides of Evergreen Trees, Photos of the Outsides of Evergreen Trees, and Photos of Forests.
The book I got yesterday? titled "Photos of the Insides of Trees." It has a very short section on Photos of Forests. The author's focus is primarily on Evergreen trees, because they inevitably seem to yeild the most interesting photos. And it's pretty good: hits all the right trees, clearly knows the arboreal arts, etc. Even worse, it's from the first press I was planning on contacting in September. Uggh.
Last night, I sort of flipped out a bit--I'd been scooped, or at least a third of my book had been scooped. I knew it could happen. The iron was hot for a book like this. Three collections had come out since I defended my diss, but no coherent statement had been made in the form of a monograph. Yet here it is, in my hands.
My first impulse was "crap. now I won't be able to sell my book. I'll have to chop it up up into individual articles and send them out all over creation, and hope I can get tenure based on a series of articles." It might not be that bad, and I had a sense even as I was going into full panic that perspective on the issue was only an hour or so away.
The good news? One: It's on only one section of my book. Two, the section on Photos of Forests quotes me twice, fairly substantively. Three, it doesn't at all engage the work of the theorist that forms the center of my book's inquiry. In fact, I am shocked to find that I am quoted more often in this book than is Judith Butler (who knew that Evergreen Photography is performative?). So my central argument seems not to be touched on in this book.
So how big a deal is this, really? I don't know. I suspect that it may mean that I can't really expect anything from this press, even if I solicit another series that might be appropriate. I also have to grapple with this book pretty seriously in places, because there are some very important parts of her argument that speak directly to fairly important pieces of mine, and I can think of at least one argument that she's making that was an original argument when I first wrote it out.
If anything, this is my impetus to write write write. I've got some reading for the grad class to do this week (one of the articles is actually by this author, and now part of this book), but Friday morning, I want to pull out the manuscript and revisit the introduction. Start from the ground up. The time is now. Or it was a year and a half ago.