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Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2002

    an entertaining legal brief on AL!

    Succinct, informal, accurate and inviting: throw out all the newest (thank you HL Mencken!) Lincolnia, this is more refreshing than a 21st Century Lincoln-cola. It has all of the virtues one could hope for in a bright, insigtful analysis by a foreign travel-writer who writes with the clarity of a superb brief-writer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2001

    Seriously marred by lack of good editing

    <P>I was disturbed almost at the start of Jan Morris' 'Lincoln,' when I found on page 5 a reference to Mount Rushmore in North Dakota instead of South. What a shame, I thought that a careless editor had allowed such a simple, silly geographical error to reach print in the work of one our finest living travel writers. <P>Mistakes like this always give me pause. How many non-obvious mistakes, ones that I won't easily recognize, may have crept in elsewhere in the text? But I continued reading, because in this volume as always, Morris' eye for detail and felicity of language provided reading pleasure. <P>Imagine my disappointment then, when, on page 57, I read of the Donner Party perishing in the Rocky Mountains instead of the Sierra Nevada. Barely a quarter of the way through, and two startling errors, both geographical, have appeared in a travel book. That's too many, even for the sort of impressionistic writing at which Morris excels. I put the book down and didn't finish it. <P>'Lincoln' is about Morris' reconciliation over half a century with Americans' reverence for the 16th president. Clearly, after all those years, Morris is still British and an outsider. That very perspective informs and gives spice to much of her work. So, I don't fault the author. To err is human. <P>However, to catch errors before they are published is professional. On the face of it, this book was not competently prepared for publication. It should have come under the watchful and informed eye of an editor or editors familiar with American geography and culture, an editor or editors who would have caught such basic mistakes. <P>A writer like Morris is not 'too good to edit.' Good writers deserve the safety net of good editing. Sadly, the publisher seems willing, for reasons which I suspect are mainly economic, to allow its writers to hang out to dry and to face public embarrassment. <P>In my opinion, this is editorial negligence, even publishing malpractice. If the publisher has such a cavalier disregard for the facts, for the reputation of its writers, and for the sensibilities of its readers, then readers can respond by refusing to buy this book -- and indeed by boycotting the publisher's entire catalog. <P>

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