The Who the Hell is...? Story
When I decided to embark on a Masters in Art History while juggling work and parenthood, I wondered if it was a crazy thing to do. As it turned out, it was the best thing I could have done. Not only did I nurture my love for any sort of artform and learn about the history and theory behind it, but it sowed the seed for an idea that became Who the Hell is...?
Reading numerous academic journals and wading through plenty of academic jargon over the three years that I studied, I searched for books that would explain the often complicated theories that I was meant to understand and then write about. At the time, nothing existed that really got to grips with the main ideas of the intellectuals that were on my syllabus, which meant that I had to read, re-read and re-read once more until clarity arrived. This was kind of time consuming and inconvenient when I had work projects piling up, dinner to cook and children to look after.
A Spark of Insight
Wishing there was something out there to give me some sound background information on complicated academic ideas, without the need for a dictionary by my side, I began to think about what form that might take. When I graduated, bereft suddenly of my art historians and their amazing ideas, I decided to write a book on what the hell Erwin Panofsky (one of the art historians I studied) was on about, and so an idea was born. Teaming up with Sarah Tomley, a colleague from my London publishing days who had recently retrained in psychotherapy, we developed a detailed book plan, deciding to concentrate on five subjects which interconnect: Art History, Philosophy, Psychology, Political Theory, and Sociology. Sarah, having her first degree in Philosophy, her second degree in psychotherapy, and a published author of several books on Philosophy and Sociology, as well as over 20 years of publishing experience, was indispensable in helping to realise the project. As for me, being able to marry my experience in publishing, working for many years with some of the largest book publishers in London, with my love for books, and Art History in particular, was a dream come true.
Finding a Solution
What we wanted to do was to create a highly structured series of books that told the reader who their chosen thinker really was as a person. What happened in their life that led them in a particular direction and how and why did they come up with their ideas? If you can begin to know the thinker a little and understand how their ideas developed and from where, then their work begins to make much more sense.
We didn’t want the books to try and cover everything in minimal detail. When you’re studying a theory, you want to really get to grips with what the hell that thinker is really on about. So we decided that, as well as delving into the life and influences of each intellectual, the book should choose three key theories – the ones that the thinker is really known for – and explore each one in detail. But not just that. We wanted each book to be really accessible so that busy people, people new to the subject, or people just wondering ‘what the hell are they on about?’ could pick up a copy and ‘get it’! So no jargon, no assuming that the reader ‘knows their stuff’, just fluent, engaging, clear and accessible prose.
Each book follows the exact same ‘Who the Hell is...?’ structure. What this means is that the reader knows exactly what to expect – different authors, yes – but the same format, depth and quality of content and the same team of editors working closely together. This ensures continuity across the entire series so that each and every book is just as we want them!