Listen to an author realize her forthcoming book contains a terrible mistake

Originally published at:


Let’s shovel some blame here: it also means several editors and proofreaders also missed the meaning of “death recorded”, unless such professions no longer exist in 21st century publishing?


Editors and proofreaders aren’t necessarily fact checkers. They’re more interested in grammar and flow than the underlying facts. If I were one of those in this case, I would have definitely deferred to the author as the factual expert.


She’ll have had a proofreader (‘capitalize the S in “Go fuck yourself, san Diego!”’) and an editor, but that role is broadly managerial, advisory and focused on the general form and fitness of narrative. The MIA person here is the fact-checker.


I guess she should have read

Specifically the chapter on 18th century England. Also available online for free at

for anyone interested.


Much lower stakes than a gross error in a soon-to-be published book, but several years ago, I wrote an item for my food blog that went insanely viral. It was about the last meal served in the first class dining room of the Titanic. Using the menu, and a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, I broke down each course, describing what each plate was and what they would have tasted like. One of the things served was something called “stuffed marrow,” and it was only after the blog post had received a couple hundred thousand views did I realize that marrow did not mean the inside of a beef leg bone, but a type of squash.


That “death recorded” meant someone wasn’t executed is a pretty arcane bit of info, and not the sort of thing it’s an editor’s job to spot. I guess it’s debatable whether the authrix should have realised this – one assumes by default that source documents don’t mean the opposite of what they say, but legal jargon is pretty tricksy even today, so it might have been wise to consult a specialist.

I assign blame 50/50 between the author and wilfully obtuse old-timey legal folk. It wouldn’t have killed them to say what they meant.

Anyway I hope Naomi Wolf is allowed and able to redeem the book in an emergency 2nd ed. It sounds interesting, and Satan knows the anti-queer literature doesn’t let things like “fact-checking” slow its roll.


It didn’t.

Kill Recorded.


This is my personal nightmare for my next book coming out, which is loaded with facts and dates - even though I’ve worked my tail off to quadruple check everything and be as correct as possible, I’m terrified that I’ll have made a blunder somewhere and it will be in print forever…


Who’s betting the publishers just let it go to print?

Besides, popular history has always gotten plenty of facts, figures, and concepts wrong, particularly when the author is looking to the past to prove a modern day agenda. For the Civil War, look to Shelby Foote. For the conflict between religion and science, look to John William Draper. For crazy conspiracies, there’s Zechariah Sitchen, or the Holy Grail guys.

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That is a good example of how you can’t research a question if you don’t know there is a question. British people know that the word “marrow” has two radically different meanings (as does “mincemeat”), but there’s no way to infer the presence of the second meaning unless you’ve been told about it beforehand. (And it’s not like British people in 1911 were above snarfing up a nice plate of bone marrow).

Althoooooough… did you not wonder how a jelly-like substance could be stuffed?


Yeah well, I’m not surprised. Wolf has a reputation as a White Feminist for being annoyingly heteronormative in her analyses, reinforcing misogyny, and not doing her homework outside of her own lived experience. This is par for the course for her. I mean, there’s a ton of queer theory that has unpacked the sodomy laws she was looking at (it wasn’t necessarily about homosexuality, it was also about oral sex (hetero or otherwise), and beastiality. It was also nomenclature for conspiratorial crimes against the state that had nothing to do with anal sex) but honestly, I doubt she’s ever picked up any queer theory in her life. I think she was feeling irrelevant since The Beauty Myth and wanted to write something “shocking and new” but didn’t look outside her bubble of herself to know that a ton of people had done this before her.

Queer Attachments has a great chapter on Irish shame and sodomy laws.


I thought it was problematic, but I rationalized that the marrow was the stuffing. But it exposed me as not being the food expert that I was pretending to be.


Althoooooough… did you not wonder how a jelly-like substance could be stuffed?

Have you seen our president ?


It’s terribly easy to allow even a slight error to work its way into your work when writing history…particularly when you weren’t there in the first place. Even if it’s just a peripheral presumption which leads to further assumptions, the subtle emphasis can so easily tip in the wrong direction. But that’s not so bad; there’s always opportunity for someone to come after you and clarify the situation, with additional sources.


Book errors are distressingly common. My library had to send back a book on Pennsylvania which had a map that labelled Philadelphia (instead of Harrisburg) as the capitol and misidentified the statue on the top of Philadelphia City Hall as Franklin rather than Penn. We then placed a stop order the entire rest of the series while some other key facts were checked to see if they’d been as sloppy with the rest of the country as they had been the Pennsylvania. I suspect that a number of people at that publisher had a no good very bad week.


Ugh - that’s even worse than getting a date or a fact wrong - misunderstanding something that starts a domino effect of creating a narrative that has no basis in reality. And sometimes the fact checkers are unaware as well… Scares the crap out of me!


The evidence was totally unfit for publication.

Nicely put. Can you imagine that happening today?


Climate Change?

I think the correct legal form of words at the time was, “Fatality! [Current Sovereign] Wins! Flawless Victory!”