Monday, February 25, 2019

Pet Peeve Department

It's hard to footnote books accurately, but I have no patience for authors who swipe my carefully sourced quotations without attribution and then screw them up. Today I found a beauty in Will Swift's 2014 book about the Nixons and their marriage. Swift quotes Carey McWilliams, who described Nixon in 1950 as "a dapper little man with an astonishing capacity for petty malice." But Swift doesn't mention McWilliams, and he attributes the quote to The New Republic, not The Nation, where it actually appeared.

It's possible but unlikely that Swift found the quote somewhere besides my writing. If you search on the quote, you find only my stuff and his.

Not the end of the world by any means. But it's made worse somehow by the fact that the book was published by a right-wing imprint (Threshold Editions). That's the outfit that signed Milo Yiannopoulos for a $250k advance and then canceled the deal. It also published The Embassy House, which had to be withdrawn in 2013 when U.S. officials refuted the author's eyewitness account of the Benghazi incident. Most of the major trade publishers have right-wing imprints now, and I've seen some really dreadful stuff from that quarter.

Swift's book, however, received a positive review in the New York Times, where conservative author Thomas Mallon called it fair-minded and thorough. That may well be true, but I wonder.

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