Sunday, March 25, 2007

Reviewer Humor

After writing my review of Jonathon Green's Chasing the Sun yesterday I got curious to see if there had been any reviews of it when it first appeared, so I fired up a couple of the databases to see what there was back in the files. Back in March of 1996, Tom McArthur reviewed the book in The New Statesman - interestingly, he made the same comment I did about how Green called the book "not an academic history," but that's not my point here.

Toward the end of the (quite favorable) review, McArthur, the author of English Today and The Oxford Companion to English Literature writes

"But, alas, I have been made uneasy, and in an all too personal way. Some of my own work has been quoted at various points, but throughout my name has been misspelt - mildly so, with a big 'Mac' - but misspell [sic?] all the same. Someone has been handling my reality without due care. But Green and I are both lexicographers, creatures who revere accuracy and consistency - and, of all things, names are the most sacred. Most of the names in Chasing the Sun are as they should be and some sins are venial (the US dialectologist Raven McDavid only becomes "MacDavid" once, and the French scholar Henri Bejoint once becomes English 'Henry'), but I am "Mac" forever, with all the power of print, and I'd like to get my own back.

Yet, when all is said and done, Jonathon Green has done lexicography proud. In my own book, Worlds of Reference (1986), I was often unable to provide - for reasons of space and time - more than passing sketches of various historical, cultural or other points, but he has filled them out with much vital detail. You done good, Jonathan."

I'm not sure if that ultimate "Jonathan" was intentional or not, but either way, it amused me. Incidentally, McArthur's name is correctly spelled in my edition (the first American) so it must just be the British version (yes, published by Jonathan Cape) which contains the error.