Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Idepend* (for Independ*)

I came across an odd typo the other day: Declaration of Independence of Its Story. That second "of," in case you're wondering, should be an "and." But somehow the original formulation put me in mind of this essay I read recently, "The Murder of Leo Tolstoy: A Forensic Investigation" by Elif Batuman, a fascinating story (what one reviewer calls a "mock-murder mystery") that may be a bit independent of the actual truth. While I look to the news and other types of nonfiction to give me just the facts, ma'am, I've also come to appreciate a certain sort of "memoir" (the term Batuman herself uses) as being potentially much more valuable. However, this particular genre can cover some debatable and contentious ground, as we all learned from the controversy over Oprah Winfrey's book club pick A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. There have also been numerous reports of journalists caught making things up, like the apparent wunderkind Stephen Glass at The Atlantic, whose professional misdeeds formed the basis for the movie Shattered Glass. But Batuman is communicating something here about Tolstoy that is much more interesting than those scams could ever be. It's a truth that transcends truth, while somehow making it all the more accessible. Idepend* turns up five times in OhioLINK and 153 times in WorldCat. I depend on you to look for and hopefully find a few examples of this typo in your own catalogs as well.

(Tolstoy at his Yasnaya Polyana estate in May 1908 by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, the only known color photograph of the writer, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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