Some sounds cause physical discomfort in many people: nails on a chalkboard, dentist drills, anything the president says. And then there is a noise nearly unendurable to writers who have spent years researching niche subjects and then tentatively presenting the conclusion of that research unto the world: the sound of a fellow writer being proven publicly and unequivocally wrong—and by an English person no less, which is tantamount to having the most popular girl in high school watch you shit yourself at prom.
While promoting her new book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, in which author Naomi Wolf claims she found evidence of “several dozen” executions of men for sodomy in Victorian England, Wolf learned a new legal term several years after she needed to know the correct definition of that legal term.
Listening to BBC Radio’s Matthew Sweet correct her causes pain in my body, and yet I have listened to this recording at least 10 times. In the book, her evidence for these supposed executions was the term “death recorded,” which she took to mean executed, when in fact, as BBC Radio’s Matthew Sweet pointed out in the interview, it actually means pardoned.
“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” he tells her. Cue Joan Calamezzo’s “Gotcha!” dancers and me scrambling to hide in my closet on her behalf.
At the recent Hay festival, Wolf addressed the “healthy debate” about the two errors her much longer book contains and said there’s a bright side, the books are now collector’s items!
“Some of you may have seen that there has been a healthy debate about two errors I did make in this book, and they’re on page 71 and 72. Hang on to your copies because it will be a collectors’ item because it will not [be] in the next printing.”
I do not understand the Alabama analogy she made next, but that could be because I’ve got my eyes half closed like I’m watching a horror movie:
“As today, if a doctor in Alabama who performs abortions is arrested or a journalist at the New York Times is arrested, it is the arrest that gets all the press. And if there is a sentence, that gets the national press. If there is a plea bargain or reduced sentence or parole, that isn’t usually in the press.”
Someone please take this whole story away from me because I cannot stop looking at it, and it’s going to give me bad dreams.