Sunday, April 6, 2008

Homer nods . . . thrice

You'd think the New York Times Book Review, of all media, would go over its writers' copy with a comb so fine-toothed that a microsized apostrophe couldn't sneak through. But in today's issue Joe Queenan, in an otherwise funny piece on those fey book-club quizzes that anchor the endpapers of so many paperback reissues, made not one but three bloopers:

He wrote Picture of Dorian Grey instead of the correct "Gray."

He rendered Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice as "Bennett."

And he spelled Stendhal "Stendahl."

I was just waiting for him to commit the odious "Ghandi" instead of Gandhi, but he ran out of space.

Or possibly Queenan was having his own private joke. "Every so often, a question [in those endpaper quizzes] seems to have been included merely to see if readers are still awake," he writes.

Maybe those misspellings were jokingly intended to jar old copy editors out of our somnolence. But I don't think so. Our craft is going down the tubes everywhere, maybe even at The Times.


  1. Henry --

    "...maybe even at The Times." Maybe? You present the evidence. Then you back off. Is that because you really don't believe your own eyes? Or is it because you want to be polite?

    -- Jan

  2. On the face of it, three such misspellings in one piece are deplorable, but I had this feeling that Queenan and the Times were setting us up for some kind of joke. I'm just a shitkicker Midwesterner, hardly smart enough to tell the difference.

    We'll see if the Book Review runs a skinback. I bet it doesn't.

  3. This is getting strange.

    Yesterday the Times' "Paper Cuts" blog published my comment pointing out the three errors, but today the comment has disappeared.

    The errors, however, remain in the Queenan online piece.

    I am mystified.

  4. On April 10, four days after the goof, The Times finally owned up to the errors in Queenan's piece and corrected them. It took the copy desk that long to research the matter?

  5. And today (April 19) the Times Book Review ran that skinback you didn't think it would: