Okay. I admit it. I'm a nitpicker. I not only pick nits. I seek nits to pick. However, this wasn't the case recently when I caught a glaring error in a book.
I admit it.
I'm a nitpicker.
I not only pick nits.
I seek nits to pick.
However, this wasn't the case recently when I caught a glaring error in a book. I wasn't in search of a nit to pick; it just popped up, staring me in the face.
I read a lot of books. A hundred and fifty or so a year. One of the reasons is I can no longer stand the brain dead junk they show on television.
So, I was reading a book called "A Walk in the Woods" by a former newspaperman named Bill Bryson who made a half-hearted (it turned out) attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, across 14 eastern seaboard states — from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine — a distance of about 2,100 miles through all sorts of terrain.
Part way along the trail, Bryson and an out-of-shape buddy realize they bit off more than they could chew, so decided to renege on their plans. Instead of hiking the entire 2,100 miles, they did it in sections, skipping parts along the way.
The trail cuts across part of southeastern Pennylvania and this section, according to Bryson, is the pits. (I don't know why he is so down on Pennsylvania, unless he mistakenly ended up in Scranton.)
While the trail does not reach north enough to traverse the anthracite coal region, Bryson wanders off on a mental excursion and comments on that area, including Carbondale, which he never visited.
I’m frequently critical of goings-on in our neck of the woods. But that's okay. I live here. It's my backyard. I do not take kindly to outsiders criticising this area. Or mistating the facts.
On page 180 of his book, Bryson writes: "In 1846, at Carbondale almost 50 acres of mine shafts collapsed simultaneously without warning, claiming hundreds of lives."
I went back and reread that.
Apparently, when he wrote that, Bryson was suffering from an overdose of spiked trail mix.
He was wrong. Which is no big deal, unless you put that wrong in a book thousands of people will be reading and might believe to be gospel.
I sat down and wrote Bryson a letter.
"Never happened. At least not with such results. While there was a cave-in, the number of lives lost was nowhere near the number you cite. There was a mine cave-in on Jan. 12, 1846. Forty acres of the roof of a mine gave way, trapping a shift of 22 miners who had just entered the mine. Instantly killed crushed to death were — 14 men. Despite the best efforts of other miners to find the bodies of their comrades, only eight of the 14 bodies were recovered. This was the first great tragedy in the coal regions and cast a gloom over the entire industry. I think you will agree that the 'hundreds of lives' you cite as lost is a far cry from the 14 that actually were."
I suggested that Bryson correct the error in any future editions of his book
I did not expect a reply. And haven't gotten one. I've written similiar letters when I have discovered errors in books and the only acknowledgement I ever received was from the author of a book about fly fishing the Lackawanna River who made a correction in future editions.
Which further convinced me that, contrary to public opinion and a wildy held and scandalous misbelief about their exagerating the size of their catch, fishermen are the only people you can always depend on to tell the truth.