Monday, November 28, 2016

Crossing the Rubicon (or not)

Every now and then I encounter something quite wrong in non-fiction.  Sometimes I can just let it go, and move on.  Other times it puts an end to reading farther.  While I was returning from my parents over Thanksgiving weekend, I ran into an example of the latter.  First, let me just acknowledge that we all make mistakes sometimes, myself included.  I hope I don't come across as unfairly condemnatory, but certain types of mistakes can drive me nuts.

For whatever reason, I'm particularly attuned to catching errors of geography when reading. I've encountered quite a number.  For example, a non-fiction book describing the New Deal era Resettlement Administration's greenbelt towns misidentified the town constructed in Ohio. Another non-fiction book described the Connecticut River as flowing through New Haven, Connecticut, past the campus of Yale University.  As any map should show, the Connecticut River doesn't get within twenty miles of New Haven.  I got past those points after cringing and shaking my head, and continued reading.  The books otherwise seemed good enough, though I can only hope that the rest of the content didn't contain additional errors I wasn't knowledgeable enough to catch.

Anyway, what I ran into the other night was even worse.  Still, I may have moved past it, where it not for the tone of the book having already rubbed me the wrong way in places - and its shear wrongness. What had me so disturbed?  "Yet by the time Washington was crossing the Potomac in December 1776. . ."

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze
(Image from the Met web site)
Washington may have crossed the Potomac River many months earlier when traveling north from Virginia to assume command of the army forming around Boston, in the wake of the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker (Breed's) Hill.  However, he was assuredly not doing so in December 1776, when he was instead crossing the Delaware River to attack the Hessians in their Trenton barracks. There's a famous painting and a couple of state parks that tend to bear that out.

I stopped reading at that point.  The book is headed back to the library come morning.  One wonders how many similar errors are floating around out there, in how many different books.  Just something to ponder.

Tomorrow, I should have either a book review or some technical progress to report upon.  For now, good night.

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