A reader writes:
While I have your attention, I will offer a correction to your Mencken biography. It is minor, but so jarring to this Baltimore resident that I
remember it after two years (and suspect, therefore, that some other
Baltimore resident has alerted you to it). It is your reference to
“riverside renovations” on page 20. Baltimore is not on a river, but on a
harbor; I assume that you meant to refer to Harborplace.
I sure did, and I can’t tell you how I cringed as I read this e-mail. That’s the kind of mistake that gives all biographers nightmares–not quite as horrible as inadvertent plagiarism, but plenty bad enough. Geography has always been one of my weaker suits (I actually made a similarly horrific directional mistake in a book I wrote about my own childhood), but of course that’s no excuse.
On the other hand, here’s the funny part: until now, nobody else noticed this error, in spite of the fact that The Skeptic sold well and was widely read in Baltimore, where I lectured twice about Mencken in the year and a half following its publication. Not only that, but I ran the manuscript of the passage in question by a close friend of mine who is a Baltimore native and has written with great acuity about the city and its people…and she didn’t notice it.
Proving what? I’m not sure, but I thought it’d amuse you. All proposed morals to this story will be read and appreciated.