Over the holiday weekend, Laurel Touby dropped by the blog because she was excited about a NYT article she’d read about Aaron Greenspan (left), the 24-year-old Harvard grad who just might be the real inventor of Facebook and is now shopping a memoir about his college experiences. The article mentioned how Greenspan “developed an automated system that generated personalized query letters to more than 800 literary agents nationwide,” so Laurel wanted to know if any of them were reading GalleyCat that Saturday morning and could send her a copy. It didn’t take long for somebody to come through. Our source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he’d never bothered to open Greenspan’s query letter before the article ran, suggesting that all the would-be author had really done was to “[spam] every agent in creation without doing any real research.” (For his part, Greenspan argues that “If reasonably intelligent people writing books on serious topics have such a hard time getting attention from agents, then maybe there’s something wrong with the system, or many of the agents themselves.” Your thoughts?)
In the letter this source passed on, one of what Greenspan would later describe to me as “about five” versions he wrote and revised, Authoritas: One Harvard Student’s Admissions is pitched as “the tale of a recent Harvard graduate looking back at his schooling from start to finish, explaining how his ‘perfect’ education at America’s top university turned out to be nothing short of a nightmare… By the last page,” he adds, “I realize what many college graduates have known for some time: that in reality, our current educational system does not seek truth, as Harvard’s motto implies, but rather, authority, making school an immense power game with an all-too-real impact on our society, and our children.”
Greenspan’s query letter brims with confidence. “Those who do not know that I have written a book, and have heard of my tale by word of mouth,” he says, “frequently tell me that I should write one.” Well, yes, but as he himself recognizes, that’s pretty much because of his involvement in the fight over who created Facebook, not what sounds like, based on the limited information available, a standard-issue tale of post-adolescent disillusionment. Then again, that’s just one man’s opinion; several people didn’t think God and Man at Yale would amount to much, either, and William F. Buckley, Jr. seems to have done all right for himself.
Still, when Greenspan contacted us, after somebody else had written pretending to be him, I pointed out that the “student’s admissions” pun was fine in the abstract, but I didn’t think it really worked for a book about somebody who’d already gotten into college, and he might want to rethink the title. He disagreed with my assessment: “The title might seem incongrous, but it actually does make sense,” he replied. “The book is primarily about education, and why having an insanely competitive process that leads to college is, not surprisingly, insane.”
(Thanks to the social networking news blog Mashable for cropping Darcy Padilla’s NYT photo so neatly.)