27 Hilarious Literary Corrections That Will Ruin Your Trust In The Media

27 Hilarious Literary Corrections That Will Ruin Your Trust In The Media

Writers and editors, like the rest of us, sometimes find themselves saying, "I've made a huge mistake." Errors sometimes find their way into book reviews, author profiles and language articles. When noteworthy mixups are made, right-thinking publications inform their readers with clear and prominent correction notices, which revise potentially harmful misinformation.

More importantly, however, sometimes these correction notices, whether unintentionally or due to a slyly witty corrections editor, are incredibly funny. Literary corrections may be among the funniest of all; there's something particularly ridiculous-sounding about, for example, a correction to the plot summary of a wildly inventive novel of magical realism.

Here are 27 particularly absurd and amusing bookish corrections that are funny as well as functional:

This correction appeared on a New York Times article entitled "Brick by Tiny Brick: Rendering Frank Lloyd Wright in Lego." Ayn Rand devotees around the world gasped in horror. We're not entirely sure what John Galt did, or who he is, but he certainly was not an architect.
Poor author Alex Tizon had roughly a decade added to his age, and was cast as a porn-watching fiend, in a Los Angeles Times review of his book Big Little Man. Um, sorry?
Author Ann Patchett wrote this tongue-in-cheek letter to The New York Times after a review of her essay collection used a vague construction that allowed for the impression that she was married to her dog.
Rarely do we see a correction like this one on David Bezmozgis' New York Times review of American Innovations, a short story collection by Rivka Galchen, which suggests that not only did the reviewer make some errors but he apparently didn't read much of the book at all.
But it is, of course, a huge award.
The New Yorker captured this correction to a New York Times article about comma usage. "It has since been changed and made less funny," they note.
In a review of This Bright River, New York Times critic Janet Maslin managed to mix up two characters in a particularly troubling way: Not only did she misidentify an unnamed character in the prologue, changing the whole narrative of the book, the correction required eliminating some of the suspense as to the identity of this character, which readers aren't intended to learn until late in the book. The result was this amusingly "no spoilers!" correction.
The quarterly Jewish feminist magazine Lilith made a small but very significant blunder in printing a pull-quote from a memoir, as reported by Columbia Journalism Review.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette issued this effusively courteous correction, according to Poynter, after misstating the language in which Chaucer wrote. For reference, here are the first lines of Beowulf in the original Old English: "HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum, / þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon, / hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!" (Fr. Klaeber edition, accessed via the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.)
This correction is quite a double-whammy. In a New York Review of Books article, John Colapinto was described as an intersex child raised as a girl -- except that not only was Colapinto the author of a book, not its subject, the subject was not what we would term intersex but raised as a girl after his penis was burned off during a botched medical procedure as an infant. Double oops.
The LA Times learned an important lesson here: Only quote from the final version of the book -- not galleys, and definitely not possibly parodic articles you read on the Internet.
This Lord of the Rings geekery is not the kind of correction you usually see in the New York Times Sports section, but apparently pitcher R.A. Dickey needed to brush up on his Tolkien.
In 1982, an ad was placed for a book in the New York Review of Books that noted that the author, William Greider, had won a Pulitzer Prize. Except, oops, he hadn't. Unfortunately the jinx of premature congratulations apparently took hold, as Greider remains Pulitzer-less over 30 years later.
This bizarre misquote seems rather like a case of wishful thinking on the part of this New York Times writer.
The first part of this New York Review of Books correction is not only unamusing but sobering; the apparently superfluous statement about Herman Roth's profession that follows, however, raises this correction to the level of the absurd.
When celebrated writer and personality Gore Vidal died in 2012, the eloquent New York Times obituary was marred by several rather hilarious corrections -- speaking to Vidal's eventful life and strong persona.
There's a whole morbidly funny subgenre of corrections noting that authors or other notables, presumed dead in published articles, have proved to be very much alive. A classic understated example here from The Washington Post.
This one appeared on a blog on The Huffington Post. (Sorry, Renata!)
Oops! Sadly, George Thomson, the classical scholar and Marxist philosopher, died just four years later in early 1987. At the time, the New York Review of Books printed a very apologetic correction letter.
This New York Review of Books correction letter by reviewer William H. McNeill, joyfully titled "Alive!", stands as a reminder that retirement is by no means equivalent to death.
Unfortunately, the McNeill/Wrigley debacle isn't over; Wrigley graciously acknowledges the correction noting he remains alive, but alas, a phantom professional relationship still needs to be denied. Was this whole review an elaborate alternative biography of poor Tony?
Poynter reported on this seemingly rather obvious misquote in The New York Times International Weekly -- which turns out to be a common falsification of Sartre's famous quote.
Correction: Rilke's poetry can be, and has been, well translated. This NYRB reviewer had no idea.
No doubt they mean well, but this Catholic quest to bring people into the church has finally gone too far. Fortunately, the New York Review of Books eventually reinstated Williams' churchlessness.
For the record, Oren never reached for the ham. Thanks to The Jewish Daily Forward for clarifying.
Okay, this wins. Thanks, New York Times.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this post inadvertently implied, incorrectly, that Gabriele Annan was unaware that Rilke's poetry had been translated into English. The post has updated to clarify this.

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