Author Topic: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?  (Read 9520 times)

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KB

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #60 on: February 11, 2013, 04:05:56 AM »
- 'bumfodden' is not a German word for toilet paper

Just have to pull you up on this because yes, it is. It's not the formal term, but it is a casual term, at least in Nordrheinwestfalen. Most people use 'bumf' - short for 'bumfodden' - when talking about buying the stuff, using it, etc. I did not come across it in Berlin, nor in the south, so it may well be a regional usage, but it's possible that's where he heard it so he included it.

Margo

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #61 on: February 11, 2013, 04:53:54 AM »
One of my pet annoyances is one of the 'Brother Cadfeal' books where there's a major inaccuracy which basically drives a coach and horses through the plot. (Deliberately vague to avoid spoiling it for others)
Is that the one that had to do with a shoeprint?  Because I caught that one too.

Why would a shoe print be a problem?
I haven't read the book, so I'm just guessing with the shoeprint suggestion, but here goes:
Shoes were not 'right' and 'left' until reasonably modern times (I want to say Georgian, but I'm not
certain). If the shoeprint was supposed to be of 'a left foot' (or vice versa) that would be historically inaccurate. Shoes were the same shape for both feet (one of several reasons why sore feet is a very
period complaint!  ;D).

At least as late as the American Civil War (1860s) boots and shoes that were supposed to fit either foot were advertised as 'indifferent'.  In earlier times, the soles may have been the same but the uppers were likely to be soft enough to adapt to the individual foot.

  Also, very few people land exactly the same way on the left foot and the right foot.  Every runner knows that.   It just may be possible that someone in the Brother Caedfael novel noticed that someone was left-footed rather than right-footed.  The print of the predominant foot would be deeper than that of the other foot. 

This skill could be very well honed in men who had grown up hunting game in a forest.

The one I was talking about wasn't the footprint one.

I knew about shoes in that period not being right or left footed but I assumed that if worn for a long time they would gradually come to fit ones own feet in any event. I know my own (non right and left footed) sheepskin slippers are definitely *now* fitted to my right and left feet, and a good tracker seeeing my footprints and/or slippers could probably work out that I put the edges of my feet down first so the soles always wear unevenly, too.

I didn't know about children being encouraged to wear the shoes alternately on each foot but it makes sense, especially if the shoes are going to be passed on to a younger sibling!

I've PM'd those of you who asked me to abotu the one I was thinking. Happy to post it whited out if no-one minds..

cabbageweevil

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #62 on: February 11, 2013, 05:36:24 AM »
For historical fiction - I think sometimes people (I'm not referring to anyone in this thread) need to remember that it is exactly that - fiction.

The great Edna Ferber made reference to that in the preface to one of her books - I think it was Cimmaron.  She acknowledged that a couple of the dates she assigned to real events were in fact a year or two off - but she had to do it that way, in order to make the rest of the story fit.  She did have a rather creative term for nitpickers who would constantly let her know how "wrong" she was (I gather people did this by snail-mail in the 1920s and 30s) - unfortunately I lent out my copy so I don't recall exactly what it was.
More generally -- some seeming anachronisms, too, I feel can be given a pass. This in the interests of making the narrative flow more smoothly, and be free from distractions over trivial matter. As Margo says in post #3, "I can live with using modern language (after all, people would have used what was, to them, normal, colloquial language so it gives you the immediate 'feel'...)"  Other things too: I was reading a while ago, a murder-mystery novel set in the 7th century A.D., in what would later become France. In discussion between the characters about the logisitics of their travels, distances are spoken of in terms of kilometres. Initially, this grated on me; but on reflection, I feel, simpler to have it thus: let it be understood that the characters were really talking about whatever the measures of distance were, in France-to-be a millennium and a half ago -- better than the author using whatever the real term was, and then having to fiddle around distractingly with footnotes...

In the "minute nitpicks" league: one of mine came to mind, with the discussion involving Paullina Simons's "The Bronze Horseman". I recall from the sequel to that novel, in which Tatiana manages to get out of the Soviet Union and become resident in the USA -- she has for some reason, to travel by rail from New York to Chicago or some similar journey.  The author has her dealing with "Amtrak", to undertake this journey. This made me wince, because this action is happening in 1946: Amtrak, the US united passenger-rail authority, did not come into being until 1971. Tatiana would have dealt with private railway company / companies. I being a railway nut, would be likely to be more upset than most people, by a bad anachronism in this sphere -- it's a pretty tiny and obscure thing, and I'm ready to accept admonitions about getting a life...
« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 05:50:06 AM by cabbageweevil »

cabbageweevil

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #63 on: February 11, 2013, 05:48:52 AM »
Worst nonfiction book that I have ever read for accuracy was 'The Mother Tongue - English and how it got that way' by Bill Bryson. The guy is a journalist and only speaks English, and the stuff he put in his oeuvre where he compares English with other languages or talks about imported words seems to have been made up of factoids gathered from newspaper and magazine clippings, plus the occasional input of mischievous foreign waiters who knew he'd stiff them on tips and lied to him with smiles on their faces.

(snipping the examples of nonsense in the book)

This goes on and on. I speak and read four languages to varying degrees and have studied and mostly forgotten two more, and he talks nonsense about every one of them. Reading the Amazon reviews is quite amusing, if a bit disheartening. The reviewers who speak any foreign languages or have a bit more insight into English linguistics think it is atrocious. Everyone else thinks it's wonderful because it's so funny, never mind the facts. There's even a teacher who says she'd still use it in her lessons because it got her kids so enthused. A book with an error on every page.

In general, I have ambivalent feelings about Bill Bryson. "On a good day", he can be very perceptive and genuinely very funny. On the debit side, he comes across as extremely "up himself", and with a tendency (as witness the above post) to sacrifice truth and accuracy for the sake of raising a laugh. Sometimes, the laugh-raising fails: humorous though the guy is, he occasionally has me thinking, in the words of Harry Turtledove, "if he were half as funny as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as funny as he really is."  And he has a nasty streak, which can surface unpredictably -- as in his "A Walk In The Woods", where he suddenly, out of nowhere, launches into a vicious "hatchet job" on Stonewall Jackson.  Altogether, Bryson strikes me as an odd duck.

athersgeo

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #64 on: February 11, 2013, 06:30:48 AM »
In the "minute nitpicks" league: one of mine came to mind, with the discussion involving Paullina Simons's "The Bronze Horseman". I recall from the sequel to that novel, in which Tatiana manages to get out of the Soviet Union and become resident in the USA -- she has for some reason, to travel by rail from New York to Chicago or some similar journey.  The author has her dealing with "Amtrak", to undertake this journey. This made me wince, because this action is happening in 1946: Amtrak, the US united passenger-rail authority, did not come into being until 1971. Tatiana would have dealt with private railway company / companies. I being a railway nut, would be likely to be more upset than most people, by a bad anachronism in this sphere -- it's a pretty tiny and obscure thing, and I'm ready to accept admonitions about getting a life...

See, to me, that seems like a legitimate thing to nitpick about. Then again, I am the person who watched an adaptation of one of Robert Harris' books and spent half an hour whining about how they'd used the wrong coaching stock for the train...


Margo

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #65 on: February 11, 2013, 06:41:36 AM »
Quote
I being a railway nut, would be likely to be more upset than most people, by a bad anachronism in this sphere -- it's a pretty tiny and obscure thing, and I'm ready to accept admonitions about getting a life.

I think this is the key. It's knowing about something, and therefore noticing that it is wrong, which jolts you out of the story, I think. 

I  attended a discussion panel at a con once on this subject, one panel member commented that she could almost never watch/enjoy films or TV shows with (pre-mechanisation) battle scenes as she was an expert in respect of armour and mail, so even minor errors relating to the period of the armour or chain mail, shape/design of helmets etc was so glaring to her as to destroy any chance of being able to believe the story.

And I can live with a writer rearranging history if they are upfront about it - I cant now remember the specific book - but the book was set during the napoleonic wars and included some cameo appearances by the Duke of Wellington. The writer included a note saying that most of the specific incidents in the battle scenes had happened, and that the words attributed to Wellington were things he had said, but that the writer had, for the purpose of the plot, taken real incidents and used them in different battles, or given them to his/her characters instead of the the actual individuals who had seen/done them, and that the comments from Wellington had not necessarily been said at the times or in the situations where they appeared in the novel. That seems reasonable to me - after all, if you want your hero to (say) be first into the breach, or mentioned in dispatches, then you are going to have to displace a real figure to make it happen.

magicdomino

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #66 on: February 11, 2013, 11:19:03 AM »
Unless the tattoo was given to the nun against her will, I doubt that she would have been allowed to become a nun at all.  If she did it willingly (and I have no idea how one could be given an elaborate tattoo without being willing) then she would probably  face the Inquisition. A serpent, the very symbol of Satan himself?  Who but a witch or demon-lover would have such a thing engraved on her body!

The nun was quite willing.  The serpent was drawn by a secret lover just before he left her for the last time.  Her maidservant somehow found the tattoo artist to make the serpent permanent.  The nun managed to avoid being naked in front of anyone except the servant, which is why the tattoo wasn't discovered until the nun died a few months later.

That part, I can accept.  It's the mysterious tattoo artist that bothers me.

cabbageweevil

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #67 on: February 11, 2013, 01:17:22 PM »
In the "minute nitpicks" league: one of mine came to mind, with the discussion involving Paullina Simons's "The Bronze Horseman". I recall from the sequel to that novel, in which Tatiana manages to get out of the Soviet Union and become resident in the USA -- she has for some reason, to travel by rail from New York to Chicago or some similar journey.  The author has her dealing with "Amtrak", to undertake this journey. This made me wince, because this action is happening in 1946: Amtrak, the US united passenger-rail authority, did not come into being until 1971. Tatiana would have dealt with private railway company / companies. I being a railway nut, would be likely to be more upset than most people, by a bad anachronism in this sphere -- it's a pretty tiny and obscure thing, and I'm ready to accept admonitions about getting a life...

See, to me, that seems like a legitimate thing to nitpick about. Then again, I am the person who watched an adaptation of one of Robert Harris' books and spent half an hour whining about how they'd used the wrong coaching stock for the train...

Kind of you to say so !  My worst-ever railway-type clanger to date, is in the film of D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love".  This film, set in 1913, has a sequence of the rakish hero racing, on his horse, a train hauling coal from a colliery. The locomotive heading the train is -- what was easily available locally, at the time of the film's making -- one of the "Austerity" loco type, built in large numbers in the UK in World War II and in the years following -- ugly but highly-serviceable machines, a fair few still running today on British preserved railways -- but utterly wrong for 1913 !  And, "insult to injury", the loco shown, is fitted with a strange-looking chimney of the "Giesl" type -- which improved draughting from the firebox, and was fitted in the 1960s to many locos on British colliery railways. Its Austrian inventor, Dr. Adolph Giesl-Gieslingen, was aged ten in 1913 -- he was a bright guy, but...!  (For film directors and most people, of course, "a steam loco is a steam loco, end-of..."; but being a specialist nitpicker, is fun !)

selkiewoman

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #68 on: February 11, 2013, 01:21:21 PM »
Watching the Tim Burton 'Alice in Wonderland', it bothered me immensely that a girl who was old enough to become engaged was still wearing her hair loose and her skirts above the ankle.  (Do not get me started on Billie Piper in 'Mansfield Park.')

darling

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #69 on: February 11, 2013, 01:31:31 PM »
Watching the Tim Burton 'Alice in Wonderland', it bothered me immensely that a girl who was old enough to become engaged was still wearing her hair loose and her skirts above the ankle.  (Do not get me started on Billie Piper in 'Mansfield Park.')

I think the choice in costume was made to show that while she was old enough to be engaged, she was still very immature and not ready to grow up. The whole film is meant to show how she grows and matures, conquers her fears and becomes THE Alice (LOL).

Tabby Uprising

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #70 on: February 11, 2013, 01:34:29 PM »
Watching the Tim Burton 'Alice in Wonderland', it bothered me immensely that a girl who was old enough to become engaged was still wearing her hair loose and her skirts above the ankle.  (Do not get me started on Billie Piper in 'Mansfield Park.')

I would love to get you started on Billie Piper in Mansfield Park.   ;D  I had no idea she starred in a version of it.

cabbageweevil

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #71 on: February 11, 2013, 01:41:26 PM »
Quote
I being a railway nut, would be likely to be more upset than most people, by a bad anachronism in this sphere -- it's a pretty tiny and obscure thing, and I'm ready to accept admonitions about getting a life.

I think this is the key. It's knowing about something, and therefore noticing that it is wrong, which jolts you out of the story, I think. 

I  attended a discussion panel at a con once on this subject, one panel member commented that she could almost never watch/enjoy films or TV shows with (pre-mechanisation) battle scenes as she was an expert in respect of armour and mail, so even minor errors relating to the period of the armour or chain mail, shape/design of helmets etc was so glaring to her as to destroy any chance of being able to believe the story.

And I can live with a writer rearranging history if they are upfront about it - I cant now remember the specific book - but the book was set during the napoleonic wars and included some cameo appearances by the Duke of Wellington. The writer included a note saying that most of the specific incidents in the battle scenes had happened, and that the words attributed to Wellington were things he had said, but that the writer had, for the purpose of the plot, taken real incidents and used them in different battles, or given them to his/her characters instead of the the actual individuals who had seen/done them, and that the comments from Wellington had not necessarily been said at the times or in the situations where they appeared in the novel. That seems reasonable to me - after all, if you want your hero to (say) be first into the breach, or mentioned in dispatches, then you are going to have to displace a real figure to make it happen.

In a way, being knowledgeable about a particular field can be something of a curse ! I remember hearing from a fellow-railway-enthusiast, married to a nurse, about his wife's frequent responses -- ranging from hilarity to outrage -- re fictional things seen on television: medical-themed dramatic series, or "ditto" films, which for her violated reality.

Re historical stuff -- I agree, "triage" as mentioned, is a perfectly reasonable thing to do: one is looking at giving the broad picture for non-specialists, not at historical maxi-accuracy.


Jocelyn

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #72 on: February 11, 2013, 02:09:48 PM »
I think it depends upon the gaffe. For me, one of the biggest ones is the use of 'OK'. It's not medieval.
But last night I was reading an alternate-universe book about North America if the Viking settlements had endured, followed shortly by other European nations. One of the Vikings used 'okay'. Now, I would have preferred that he had said 'all right'...but there were lots of nice historical details and the author wasn't trying to write in dialect, so I was able to give it a pass that whatever he said would have been in Norse, most likely, anyway, and keep going. :)

Tini

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #73 on: February 11, 2013, 02:42:08 PM »
KF - Well, I never. I'm reminded of the old usenet maxim that every spelling flame must have a typo in it, so obviously me flaming Bill Bryson had to have an error in it too. With regards to my own mother tongue, no less. All I can say is that I've never heard that, as I'm from Bremen (but I should have checked - as a translator I should know better). :)

cabbageweevil - I know what you mean. I've kinda gone off him and got rid of most of his books. At times I find him kinda prejudiced (sizeist, for one), and I'd hate to ever be his waitress.

Outdoor Girl

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #74 on: February 11, 2013, 03:20:13 PM »
cabbageweevil, I think those of us with a lot of knowledge about specific things are always disappointed/amused when they get it so, so, so, so wrong.

I have to suspend my scientific knowledge for all of the crime shows.  I've worked in a lab; the equipment just doesn't function that way.

The worst one for me was a movie about a cryptosporidium outbreak, killing thousands of people.  Crypto is a parasite that can get into drinking water if it isn't properly filtered and treated.  Ultraviolet light will also inactivate crypto.

All their lab tests for crypto were ridiculously wrong but they did get the UV light thing right and they were setting it up at the city's water plant to purify the drinking water.  The only problem was that the plant they were showing in the background was very clearly a SEWAGE treatment plant.  Ummm, if you are feeding the city's water supply from the outflow of the city's sewage treatment plant, no wonder you've got problems!   ;D
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