Just the Facts, Ma'am?

This is in response to Judith Cantor's letter (The Book Review, Jan. 3), in which she admonishes Michael Wilmington for "nitpicking about minor errors" in his review of "Reel Politics." I didn't read Wilmington's review, but I am compelled to state that any comments about a book's factual mistakes are entirely legitimate.

In a biography or a work of history, a minor error (or a glut of them) can result in a confusing text, as well as a bewildered reader. The exact date of an event, or someone's age when a work was done--these facts are very important to the serious student of a particular subject, especially when the reader wants to place events in chronological order, or into a historical or career perspective. Moreover, if a writer can't be bothered to get the basic facts straight, then I'm bound to question the reliability of the entire book. I'd venture, therefore, that pointing out such inaccuracies is to engage in a form of literary criticism that is necessary and fair.



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