In "Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers," Motoko Rich sets out to prove an intriguing thesis: that the whole issue of whether mothers should work or stay at home with their kids is so fraught, so thorny, that women refuse to buy books about it. The article is illustrated by a photo of author Leslie Bennetts and her family, and indeed, the first four paragraphs focus on one SAHM-blogger's dismissal (sans actual reading, of course) of Bennetts' recently-published book. And then we come to this little bundle of confusing.

The explosion of commentary on blogs and elsewhere about "The Feminine Mistake" joins a growing list of similar fracases stirred up by books that touch on the perennial dilemma of mostly upper-middle-class women: return to work or stay at home with the kids. But the truth is that, with rare exceptions (and it's too early to say whether Ms. Bennetts's book may be one of them), these so-called mommy books fail to transform their talk-show and blogosphere buzz into book sales. Talk, it turns out, is much cheaper than the $24.95 cover price.

Right, "it's too early to say." So why is the entire rest of the article about trying to peg Bennetts' book as one of those buzzed-about flops?

Maybe it's because Rich is actually trying to prove a larger point, usefully articulated for her by Linda R. Hirschman, who published a book about how women should Get To Work last year: "I guess the media world has changed in such a way that a book is just a pretext for television appearances and blogging and writing for The New Republic." Hirschman may be right! Problem is, publishers quaintly still base their ideas about which books they will publish based on how well they think those books will sell. If the pendulum of conventional wisdom shifts in such a way that publishers begin to feel, rightly or wrongly, that books about work and motherhood aren't marketable, authors like Hirschman won't have any pretexts for their television appearances, blogging, and writing for the New Republic, and that's actually not a good thing. And neither are articles that use Bookscan numbers of a book that's been in stores for three weeks to prop up some seriously fuzzy logic.

Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers [NYT]