Monday, January 28, 2008

Undue Non-Diligence 3

In its Daily Lunch, Publishers Marketplace is still all over The Australian's coverage of the mounting pile of errors and discrepancies in Ishmael Beah's bestselling memoir A LONG WAY GONE. On Friday the Ozzies reported, in Child soldier questions Beah's tale, that a map in the front of the book "is deeply flawed." Yele, a settlement where Beah allegedly fled on foot after an attack (whose date is now questioned) on his village is pictured as 450km (approx. 280 miles) to the southwest; in reality it is only 6km (3-3/4 mi.) away--an easy walk.

Per The Australian, the freelance cartographer:
had based the map on information he received from publishing house Farrar Straus & Giroux....

The publisher had reviewed his work and did not ask for any corrections to the depiction of the long trek to Yele.

The book's publisher, Sarah Crichton, said yesterday she had not been involved in the creation of the map, which she said was put together by the cartographer and an assistant editor who had since left the company.
And now today the Ozzies bring us Deadly fight Beah describes 'didn't happen':
RELIEF workers from Sierra Leone and international agencies have cast further doubt on best-selling author Ishmael Beah's account of his time as a child soldier, saying they can find no evidence of a deadly fight that he claims took place in a rehabilitation camp in 1996.
The article quotes reporters, UN and Sierra Leonean officials, as saying that such a fight never took place. Additionally:
Kabba Williams, a prominent former child soldier and activist for child combatants in Freetown, said child soldiers had often been angry at the way they were treated in the camps, but added: "I don't believe anything like that happened."
Here's the money quote:
Beah's publisher, Sarah Crichton of Farrar Straus & Giroux in New York, has refused to discuss what fact-checking or independent verification of his story was carried out before the book was published.
I met Crichton 10(?) years ago at a reception after the NBCC awards. Even though I mistook her for Jane Smiley (they're both tall and blond), she was charming and chatty. To my amazement and gratitude, when bigshot editors Gary Fisketjon and Morgan Entrekin came over to talk with her a few minutes later, she graciously introduced me and included me in the conversation (not your typical NYC publishing party behavior). I haven't seen or communicated with her since, but she made a big impression on me.

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