I’m baffled to say the least. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a story with more factual errors. Since I haven’t read a lot of Ann Patchett’s work, I was glad to see that the September issue of One Story featured her short story “Switzerland”. To be entirely honest, I found the title a bit odd. Did she really write a story about Switzerland? Or is it only a setting? I’m not sure why, but I immediately found it a bit problematic to give a story the title of a whole country. Just imagine I would set a story in Rome and call it “Italy”. Be it as it may, I was willing to give it a try and expected to enjoy it.
The story can be summarized quickly. Teresa is a seventy-something woman from LA who just retired. One of her children, Holly, has been living in a Zen community in Switzerland for over twenty years. Teresa’s only seen her very rarely. Her decision to travel to Switzerland and not only visit her daughter but be part of the Zen community for a few weeks, eat, live and meditate with them, is major.
The stay at the Zen community is a life changer and will help Teresa come to terms with things that have happened in the past. So far so good, and I’m pretty sure, I would have liked this story if there hadn’t been so many errors and clichés. And not just little things but big things that annoyed me a great deal.
What kind of errors and clichés you may wonder. Here goes
- Teresa takes a plane from LA to Paris and then to Lucerne. Her daughter waits for her at the airport in Lucerne. The airport and her stay there are described in detail The only problem – there is no airport in Lucerne. It’s impossible to fly there.
- When Teresa gets off the plane she comments about the cold. It’s icy – because, of course, we’re in Switzerland and it’s September. Let me assure you, unless you’re on the top of the Matterhorn, it will not be cold in Switzerland in September. Not even cool. Right now it’s still 100°F. It might be cooler in Lucerne, but not under 90°F.
- The Zen community sells walking sticks that have been made from original Swiss stone pine. Hmmm. This tree doesn’t really grow in Switzerland. It’s a Mediterranean tree.
- She mentions two newspapers Le Matin and Blick and then says Holly didn’t buy them because she can’t read German so well. Well – Le Matin is obviously French. But that’s not the only thing. Someone living in a Zen community would hardly read such trashy newspapers (the equivalent of the UK Sun).
- Teresa sees goats and, of course, the goats look like they were waiting for Heidi or her grandfather.
- And then, of course, Swiss chocolate is mentioned. Holly eats Toblerone.
One or two internet searches and these errors could have been omitted. Teresa could have landed in Zürich. The sticks could have been made of some other wood. She could have chosen between the newspapers NZZ and Weltwoche – far more believable in this context. Upon seeing the mountains she could have thought of Meinrad Inglin or Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. Instead of Toblerone, she could have eaten a Kägi fret. Or bought Ricola instead. And what if she’d stepped off the plane saying: “Wow, I never expected Switzerland to be this warm in September.” That would have been a nice foreshadowing of the upcoming changes in her perception. Alas!
I’m not normally hunting for errors and clichés but these mistakes are huge and annoying. How did they get past the editor? Or are these just liberties she’s taken? If that were the case, I’m not sure why she would do that. Many readers enjoy discovering other countries via literature. As an author you have a duty towards those who are not familiar with a setting—don’t misinform them.
How do you feel about such errors/liberties?
69 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Errors and Clichés in Short Stories? or Some Thoughts On Ann Patchett’s Switzerland”
I imagine the title is because the story is from a US character’s perspective and for them Switzerland is a single place, in the same way a 70 year old American going to Rome might well think of it simply as Italy.
As for the rest of it though, it sounds awful. I don’t think authors have a duty to inform, but I do think they have a duty not to write something which however long it took sounds like it was dashed off in an afternoon without even bothering to look at a wikipedia page.
I agree with you. Authors don’t have a duty to inform but, as I wrote, they have a duty not to misinform. In my opinion, there’s a difference. As for your explanation why she chose the title – yes, that probably was the idea behind it but nowadays . . . I suspect the editor was in awe of Patchett and didn’t even bother checking.
Very bizarre. I totally agree; one should at least do enough basic research not to be embarrassing, if nothing else! But also, as a well-known author, one is often taken to be an “authority” and so also, I think, has an obligation not to misinform. And it’s a matter of respect, too, I think!
I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks is odd. I found it disrespectful. And embarrassing for her.
Oh, I’ll have to share this with Geneva Writers’ Group, they will all be livid! Although I really like Ann Patchett normally, so am surprised at this carelessness (and clearly editors are not really checking on factual errors nowadays).
I read her book on writing and think it’s excellent. And I like One Story. I even took a course on editing with them! And now this. Whew.
I’d be interested to hear what your the Writers’ Group thinks.
Hi, Caroline. I’ve only read one work by Ann Patchett, so I’m responding more in theory than in specifics. But from the sound of it, I’d say your remarks are all spot on. As a writer of my own stories and novels, however, I have a slightly different take. Since I published my novels and stories myself (which Patchett, of course, has no need to do, but there it is), I proofed them and my mom proofed them. We are both very good and accurate readers generally, but as I’ve looked back over particularly the novels over the last couple of years, I’ve found a number of typos and minor errors of that sort, hyphenation mistakes, things I know better than to do. We tried not to be careless, but somehow they got past us anyway. Then, in some places in my novels, there are a few clichés. In some cases, these were deliberate, to show the kind of commonplace or ordinary minds my characters had. The novels (particularly in the instance of the first one) were meant to celebrate ordinary people of various sorts. I don’t know if that’s what Ann Patchett had in mind. It sounds as if her errors of cliché nature were rather in the narrative voice, and that’s not quite the same thing. I agree with you, though I haven’t read the work yet, that she could have chosen for her factual details ones that corresponded more closely to an intricate and modern Switzerland. I guess it’s all a matter of whether she was trying to construct a picture of Switzerland that people would recognize from the few stereotypical facts they already had available, or whether she should have been, as you say, producing a Switzerland that corresponded more to the real Switzerland that the citizens there encounter every day. I like the points you make about it, though, and think that I did learn a lot about things from her book I read (I can’t recall what the title was, it was set in the jungle), and hope I was learning the right things. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for your comment, Victoria.
The clichés might not have botheered me so much although I find them problematic but the errors? One is OK. That can happen but there are too many. The Lucerne airport thing actually made me chuckle because – when you know Switzerland, you know it’s absurd. Not only wrong.
I’m normaly not this annoyed but in this instance I am. The Zen angle isn’t much better. It’s full of clichés too. This seems to be part of her latest novel Commonwealth. It makes me shudder to think how many errors that will have.
I know she does a lot of research normally – possibly the editor just trusted her too much.
I’m sure I’ve made errors in my stories and novels.
I’ve encountered something different but linked. I write a lot about Paris. Not the Paris tourists see but the one I know via my family and because I lived there and people often say “but that deosn’t sound like Paris” – so maybe that’s a reason why she chose to use clichés.
Caroline, I know from having read your site from time to time that you also travel a good bit, and I would trust you to know what to say about Switzerland and many parts of Europe. Just to give you a chuckle, I hope, I’ll tell you about the silliest error I ever made. Back in the 6th grade (the last year over here of primary school), when I was recently full of the Classics Illustrated version of “Ivanhoe,” I got things a little confused, which is to say directly backwards: I wrote a story for school in which the Normans lived in England and the Saxons were the (1066) invaders! The only thing that I think I got even close to verisimitudinal was that the women were locked up in the towers for safekeeping, and the other characters were lustily and enthusiastically calling each other pigs and dogs. I can remember I was called in by my English teacher to the principal’s office, where there queried me in a puzzling and indirect fashion (at least to me at the time) about what was on my mind. I think they thought I knew someone in the flesh who called other people pigs and dogs, or something, or at least that’s how it seemed. That’s got to be one of the funniest errors I’ve ever made, and I hope I’ll never make another again quite that bizarre!
That’s so funny but given your age it’s also very forgiveable.
When I read the first complaint of no airport in Lucerne I didn’t mind bc it is fiction. Who cares? But once you compile all the errors it could be bothersome. If it were non fiction that may be cause for alarm. Is this just lazy or her take on anything goes in a fictional novel. I need to think about that. But I do see your point about the stereo type of Heidi and trying to learn things while you read, even if for just fun. I am tending to think the contract for book needed to be filled and she just slashed ahead probably thinking American audiences would not know the difference. Interesting concept. Now I’ll read the other responses.
Yes, it’s fiction but the Lucerne airport thing really shows she knows zero about Switzerland. It’s so small – choosing one of the existing airports – Basel, Zürich or Geneva and still you’d be wherever she wanted her charcaters to be within an hour or two. And then – I think it depends on what kind of fiction you write. She’s famous for being an accuaret reseracher and realistic writer – not someone who writes fantasy, slipstream or whatnot.
I find it problematic.
” I didn’t mind bc it is fiction. Who cares?”
I suspect that anyone who knows better cares. If someone wrote a story about landing at an airport in midtown Manhattan in September, and being disappointed that the current ice storm meant they couldn’t start their ascent to the top of East 87th Street Mountain the next day, you’d probably find that jarring enough that you might not be able to take the rest of the story seriously. It would maybe depend on how upsetting you found it that the main character didn’t subscribe to The New York Times because she doesn’t read Spanish, of course. Still, I think it might make even the most hardcore fiction reader care, just a little.
Your comment cracked me up. You just have to reverse it and it becomes even more absurd.
Sounds terrible. I have been in Lucerne but I took the train from Zurich. The Lucerne train station is outstanding, with many amenities. Too bad Patchett didn’t go and take a look. How hard would it be for a writer with such good sales to actually visit a place she uses as a setting in a novel?
Yes, I wonder. She mentions that nobody flies to Lucerne normally because Paris quickly accessible by train. That’s not entirely true unless you live in Basel.
Swiss train stations are really great. She missed an opportunity to describe it. Maybe she’s been in Switzerland but couldn’t be bothered to stick to the reality. No clue.
It bothers me most when these kinds of details are put in to add local color and don’t really advance the story. I recently read a novel set in Northern California. The couple was eating in the San Francisco restaurant called The Top Of the Mark (there really is such a restaurant) from which they “looked out and saw Nob Hill and the Mark Hopkins Hotel.” Oops. Didn’t the author even wonder why the restaurant is called The Top of The Mark? So much for genuine San Francisco atmosphere.
I can forgive an occasional blooper like this in fiction but it bothers me much more in nonfiction. In an early chapter of a popular history book the author has Nineteenth Century Yale students strolling from their lodgings to picnic on the banks of the Connecticut River. This would have been a stroll of over 30 miles. This error made me doubt everything else the author had to say so I didn’t finish the book.
I can forgive the occasional thing too but there were too many things in this story that, taken together, made it questionable.
In nonfiction however it’s absotlutetly inacceptable. That 30 mile stroll made me laugh.
Hi, this is such an interesting discussion. I know Lucerne has no airport, and that would have stopped me in my tracks had I read the book (which I haven’t). I love Switzerland, and have visited various places in that country for twenty years or so – and any mention of Heidi or Toblerone (or superb watches or cuckoo clocks) make me giggle – but they work for a certain population, marketing-wise. Maybe Ann Patchett thinks her readership is part of that population. I am wondering as well, as a writer, what Ann Patchett was trying to do, as I sure I have done it too – chosen a setting that somehow complements the themes of the story, in her mind – but then she seems to have missed out on the very easy research needed to create that setting in context. I guess the issue is – how many readers will notice – and that is a gamble taken by all writers, isn’t it? The writer Claire Wigfall, who wrote the wonderful collection “The Loudest Sound and Nothing” (Faber and Faber) might be pertinent to bring up here. The collection contains a story entitled The Numbers, which won the BBC National Short Story Award – netting her a lovely prize. The Numbers is set on the Outer Hebrides. You can read the opening online and I will post it at the end – and you’ll see how she invented a ‘Scottish island voice’ very successfully (obviously – re the prize) which carries the narrative. It was not until she visited the island, having won, on a publicity tour, that she discovered that they speak nothing at all like this voice. The islanders mind. As she said to me, when we talked about this – “I make things up. I can’t please 100% of the readership, or I’d never write – I’m not a travel writer. If I were, I’d have done more research” (quote not verbatim, but the gist. I suppose the question that remains is, how does a fiction writer know when their research is enough, and how much can be left to their imagination? (Lucerne Airport… pah!) Pass the Toblerone. I’m just going to wind up the cuckoo clock. Best wishes, Vanessa Gebbie (PS Even Grahame Green got things wrong. In Brighton Rock, he has a village called Rottingdean set to the west of Brighton. Nope. It’s five miles to the east. I know. I live nearby – but who cares, really? None of the many reprints of Brighton Rock have bothered to put Pinkie on the right road! Pinkhttp://www.theshortform.com/story/the-numbers
Poor Pinkie! Thanks so much for this comment, Vanessa. I write as well and I do sometimes choose settings I’m not 100% familar with but then I do research, show it to someone who knows better. It slows me down but that’s OK.
Thinking that you can just get away with something – I find that bad and a bit sad for the readers. You can always fictionalize your setting if you’re not familiar with it. Let’s say she’d have chosen an airport in Bümpelsitz – I would have stratched my head and the thought – OK – she’s taking liberties. That’s fine but it has to be obvious and, if possible, add to the story. As you said, in this case, these are factual errors that could have been avoided. Actually, as someone else said, I’m afraid she just didn’t care. Yes, the cuckoo clocks – they make me shudder as they aren’t even Swiss but again and again they are used as Swiss. The setting in this story is beyond fuzzy. Switzerland just served her theme – purity – Ha!. And sadly, the details she gave, which were menat to add authenticity contained errors. That’s so bad. Fuzzy isn’t ideal but it’s OK. She doesn’t write nonfiction but trying to cover it up with errors.
What makes me worry is the qeustion : How often have I read something and didn’t even notice what awful things I was served.
Aren’t cuckoo clocks of the black forest? *sigh*
Btw – I’m very surprised that story won a prize.
Bel Canto was also filled with errors and clichés. It barely contained a thing that was not a cliché. This is who she is. Errors and clichés are quite popular.
Thank you for letting me know, Tom. I only read her book on writing and it was not bad. I got Bel Canto afterwards because I used to sing opera and she wrote about her research on opera and made it sound as if she’d been through. I was a bit surprised that someone who never listened to opera, let alone sang it, would chose it as a topic but I think I understand now. I have no patience for errors and clichés. I know, they are popular. These days she’s The Guardian’s darling. Not sure why.
Caroline, you have brought up a very troubling issue. I think, as a writer, I take pride in my research and I do try to be accurate. Yes, some errors might creep in ( isn’t that why they call it artistic license?) but to be completely off the mark and on the many issues you have mentioned, I don’t think that’s acceptable. While I’ve received my copy of Switzerland but I haven’t read it yet. I will get to it soon and you can be sure I’ll be paying attention to the inaccuracies. Such a shame, because it will take away from my reading enjoyment.
I know, it’s troubling. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes but I try very hard not to and will always consult with others. Even if she’d chosen a fictional place, those errors should have been omitted.
I was tempted to write to One Story directly but there’s not much they can do now. I don’t think they would be happy if they were aware. I simly think, thye didn’t expect errors like this.
Let me know what you think. I’d be really interested. I’m disappointed to hear that Bel Canto had so many errors too. I was looking foward to reading that.
I think artistic licences only works wehn you tell people. In novels you sometimes see the author mention that his “Cambdrige” or whatver isn’t the real place. Someone on Twitter said exactly that btw – the worst thing about it is that it takes away from the reading enjoyment. It was like walking with a stone in my shoe.
Caroline, I am glad you brought up the issue. It’s worthy of discussion. As far as One Story’s responsibility goes, they should have done some simple research. The editor of my upcoming book asked me so many, many questions about Indian culture and while I know about some things, I had made assumptions which needed to be explained. So a good editor, I believe, should probe.
I think Switzerland might be one of the countries people know the least of. Seems a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to do research. What are the odds of getting caught. The thing is that people have an idea of foreign and exotic but writing in cliches about Switzerland is exotism too. I’m very glad you found such a thorough editor.
Ouch… I have an Ann Patchett novel coming up. Hope it’s better than this..
Unless a book is non fiction, I tend to not get too wound up about errors (unless they’re fiction about non fiction which I am tending to avoid these days anyway). BUT that said, I think all these errors, had I been in a position to catch them (as you were) would have annoyed me.
As for using a country for a title, that doesn’t bother me much as it could relate to an incident in a country that marks that place for life for the characters.
Overall this story sounds a bit lazily done…
Commonwealth? This story is part of it, as I’ve read somewhere. Hope it’s better overall.
I don’t get too wound up normally but I’m a bit fed up with Swiss clichés and the errors were jarring.
The country as title could have been OK but not when you then write something that shows such indifference. It’s a bit exploitive.
Yes Commonwealth. Now I’m worried…
I would be too. On the other hand, it could be fun – like a game “spotting the errors” – according to Tom’s comments, that’s the way she writes, so you should find plenty.
I should say that in a sense there are no errors at all in Bel Canto. Patchett never names the country. There are even reviewers who describe what she does as magical realism, which seems like a stretch to me, but whatever. Patchett is allowed to invent anything she wants.
But the book is about 98% clichés. Guess the nationality of the character who turns out to be a gourmet chef.
Here’s the editor of “Switzerland” in his own words: “Take a deep breath, clear your brains, and open your mind to the beauty of ‘Switzerland.'” This is not a guy worried too much about errors and clichés.
Yikes. I didn’t see that snippet of the editor. I hope he meant the story and not the way she portrays the country.
Magical realism saves research. Pfff. Oh the gourmet chef. Haha. No need to guess.
Magical realism sucks when it is just an excuse to be lazy.
I’ve become allergic to the term as it’s abused so often.
How do I feel about them? Irritated, I would say. If you’re going to have your story in a very specific setting with particular characteristics and make something of those characteristics, you have to be sure you get them right. There’s no excuse for not doing a little research and whether it’s a short story or a novel, it still should be done correctly. And reading your other comments it sounds like this is the kind of thing she does regularly, so I can’t see she’ll be one for me! 🙂
I was irritated. A little offended even. As a person who lives in Switzerland and as a reader, I’m totally not in the mood to read more of her. At least not right now.
I think you can take liberties but the reader should know and understand why.
There could be fiction about an alternate-reality version of Switzerland, which might actually be interesting. But without any clear reason for creating it, it just seems like sloppiness. I will definitely pass on Patchett!
I agree. At first I thought that’s where the story was headed but that wasn’t the case at all. I have no clue what happened here. Was it sloppy? Lazy? Did she remember something wrong? Indifference? No idea.
Parchett is highly thought of in the U.S., but I just couldn’t get into Bel Canto, my only foray. It’s pretty disappointing to hear of such lazy (or non-existent) research. I couldn’t write about a place I knew nothing about.
I know. That’s what upsets me. She’s even considered to be an expert.
I think you can use a setting you’ve not visited. Some writers did it and poeple living there found it very accurate. But you must be very aware and able to cut through your own bs.
There are clichés (and as a French I’m wary of stories set in France and written by foreigner who’ve never lived in the country) and there are plain mistakes.
The kind of mistakes you mention are unforgivable in the 21st century with Wikipedia only a click away. It only screems laziness and if I were one of her readers, I’d be offended that she doesn’t think I deserve at least a little internet checking.
Clichés about France are a dozen and they irritate me. I felt the urge to mention in one of my billets that, contrary to what the character says in the story, French children don’t drink wine.
I can sympathise with your reaction to this story.
Thanks for the sympathy, Emma.
Clichés are bad but these errors are awful.
About the wine drinking children – when was the book written? I remember my mother getting into a fight with my dad’s relatives because my cousins – although older but still only ten to fifteen, were allowed red wine.
Well, I wonder if that gets into that issue of the particular versus the generalized. “Every kids gets to drink wine in France! Best Country EVAH!!!!11111” would, I suppose, be different than “Jeanne sometimes let Yannick, whose voice had just started cracking, have a sip of her wine at supper.”
Generalizations are pretty close to cliches.
I also do not look for errors and overlook the ones that I do notice. However, in this case the mistakes and cliches that you mention sound annoying and sound very sloppy.
I cannot stand cliches and usually find them worse then errors.
Your suggestion about noticing the heat of September is a very good one.
It depends on the errors and how many there are. One – it happens to everyone. Two – more problematic and so on.
I’m a trained cultural anthropologist – so this type of cultural errors bug me no end. I actually went back and reread a few passages and noticed that there was even more.
Yes, the thing about the temperature could have been put to great use.
Maybe it was written in revenge against the Swiss author Joël Dicker? Did you ever read his book
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair? It was originally written and published in French and then there was a hotly contested auction for the translation rights. His first novel wasn’t a big hit, but he followed it up by writing this 600 page satire of a young American man (his age) who writes one bestseller and then can’t write anything else. I’ve never read such a cliche-ridden, over hyped book and I wondered how it was going to far in the US, as they’d be sure to see through all the cliches.
Books like this that try and satirise a country or culture that isn’t the authors familiar territory don’t work well when transplanted – or translated. I don’t think Dicker’s book lived up to the hype at all.
I was never tempted to read Dicker’s book but I think Ann Patchett is, clearly, far too self-centered to care about someon else’s novel as much to want to take revenge.
Thanks for letting me know about Dicker because I was a little tempted.
When the “misinformedness” is about a place, a city, a town that I know intimately because I live there, I am terribly annoyed, and frankly (though I would never admit this to anyone), I feel insulted, whether I should or not. To me, the writer didn’t take the time to get the setting accurate. This is egregious to me as a reader because I am so keen on settings in books. Then I ask, “Why doesn’t she or he know that many natives of this area will read this work?”
In this particular case of Ann Patchett and Switzerland, I must admit that as an American who is very familiar with the author’s work, personal history, and background, I would not have high expectations of her getting Switzerland right in a short story. But I can definitely see how it would be as annoying as all hell to someone living in Switzerland!
Great question for a post!
Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)
Yes, I felt a little insulted. It’s abusive. Exoticism always is. We noramlly think of settings in Africa/ASia …. when we think of exotism but mentioning clichés, wrong facts, that’s exotism and I hate it. We’re annoyed when we read boosk from the 19th Century hetting facts about African people wrong – but the root cause is the same similar. Bot are exploutive approaches. She clearly doesn’t care about Switzerland as a place but only as an idea. Pfui.
Trips to Exotica are something I swallow better in The Pearl Fishers or Aida, than in 21st century realist fiction.
Much better although it annoys me anyway.
Since I have not been to any of these places, I think it wouldnot affect me as a reader. But the case is entirely different for someone who has. I recently read about another blogger tweeting about how the Chicago in the recent release by Blake Crouch has so many flaws. Needless to say when I read it I was okay with the read. But it really bothered the ones who are from Chicago
Most of the time, people wouldn’t find out and the they wouldn’t be bothered. That’s the issue though. Ignorance and arrogance from the author. She used the setting to draw attention. Not many people choose it and didn’t even feel it necessary to capture it better.
I think it’d be useful if drafts could be run past someone familiar with the place/from the place being talked about. Research and research trips will only ever achieve so much, and then I expect there are times when it just wouldn’t occur to fact check.
I remember a book I read in the last few years. The majority of the reviews raved about it but when I read the book it was full of errors – the British characters seemed too American, and it was the case that so far the reviews had been written by non-Brits; you kind of trust the author to get it right.
Yes, I think we do trust the authors. I find it deplorable not do do some basic checks. You can invent plenty of things – houses and bars and . . . but the basics – no. Interestingly when errors like this occur in historical fiction, most people hate it. It’s similar though. Without reserach, you simply don’t get it right.
Although you have to admit, when you can churn out just *any* old tripe, and people swoon over it and even mentally recalibrate carelessness and indolence as part of your wonderful, charming appeal….well, you’re probably on to a pretty good scam.
Indeed. Yeah well.
I’m reading this story right now, Caroline. 🙂 As I rode the subway to work this morning, I turned through the parts about Holly landing in Lucerne where she meets Teresa.
It does bother me when there are inconsistencies in a story. Since I am familiar with NYC, I often notice when a character takes phone call on the subway (not possible) or magically travels from JFK to Times Square in 15 minutes.
I wondered if the title was used as a double entendre to get the reader to think about neutrality — how the characters are occupying a neutral space so as not to offend each other’s choices in life. (I also thought Teresa’s name was evocative of Mother Teresa. In the US we would likely spell the name Theresa, so this alternate spelling, while more common in other parts of the world, would be unusual here.) Maybe I’m overthinking this!
Hmmm Switzerland as in neutrality – honestly – I don’t think Ann Patchett’s is as subtle as that. No, I think she just wanted to choose something that evokes “purity” – cold air and all. It feels exploitive.
I had no idea about the phone on the subway. Thanks! I’m writing something that’s set, to some extent, in a fictional NY. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t want to mess up these basics (should it come up in the story). The JFK thing is even worse – as it’s not logical. Evene if you’ve never been there, you should know. Same as with the Lucerne airport. Switzerland is so small and Lucerne isn’t one of the bigger cities. So, why on earth would it have an airport?
I hope you’re getting something out of the story anyway.
What an interesting.review. I loved it. As a former librarian errors in books were akin to nails scratching on a chalk board in my little world. I once wrote to an author when I found an error in her book. I am not a diplomat.
I have yet to read anything by Patchett, but have noticed that her new title, “Commonwealth” has received a lot of attention. It was displayed prominently in the bookstore that I visited earlier today and has been on a number of book lists recently.
Since I have not read anything by her I feel that I should withhold my opinions. I will say that there are stacks of bestsellers in the US that are abysmal. Quality of writing (accuracy, good writing, interesting storyline and characters) are not importlant to many readers today.
I can only think that Patchett’s editor of “Switzerland” may have had a hangover, or simply assumed that Patchett’s reputation would free him from actually doing his job.
I would think it would be very interesting to write to Patchett and mention your observations (errors), and see if she replies. Over the years I wrote to authors a number of times and was surprised by the number of replies that I received. If we don’t call writers out on these things it is as if we accept or don’t notice these errors. I would be very interested to hear her response.
Or if you happen to be in Nashville, stop in at her bookstore and ask Patchett directly. She’s supposed to be very nice.
Interesting….I am not likely be be in Nashville in the near feature, although I will keep that in mind should I find myself there unexpectedly! Her books are so popular….I’d like to have this mystery solved!
Being “nice” is such a great way to get away with things.
Thanks, Hedi. I’m glad you liked it.
I’m pretty sure the ditors of Switzerland were in awe. I find that actually really bad. It means that every lesser author is picked apart and someone qho doesn’t even need the opportunity to be pulished in a magazine is getting away with anything.
It depends on the errors whther I’m in the mood to tell an author or not. In this case – not so much. But I’d be interested to read what she says if someone else asked her.
I really wonder what “Commonwealth? is referring to. I fear the worst.
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