If I told you that I have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, a doctorate from another top American university, and once worked on Capitol Hill, would that make you interested in reading my blog? I don't think so. (And yes, those really are my credentials.)
And yet this week, I received an e-mail from a French fellow eager for me to post a review of his new book of poetry. He didn't offer to send me the book; he didn't even share a few of his poems. No, instead he told me that he was a professor at HEC (one of France's grand ecoles), a graduate of Sciences Po (another grand ecole), and he had formerly worked for a government minister.
Wow. He sure picked the wrong audience. While his school ties and membership in France's ultimate old boy network might have worked on the natives, it only impressed me by its irrelevance. So chalk up one more difference in the cultural divide between the U.S. and France, now being exposed daily in press coverage of the Dominic Strauss Kahn affair. Americans may think the fellow who graduated from Harvard is smart or they may hold him in contempt for being a useless egghead. But buy a book of poetry on the strength of that association? I don't think so.