Via the puurrrfection of GalleyCat
Comes Adam Langer's roundup of Seven Deadly Sins of Critics.
Number four is where Miss Snark elevates an eyebrow:
(4) THE FACT-CHECKER-WITH-TOO-MUCH-TIME-ON-HIS-HANDS CRITIQUE. Granted, when I was writing Crossing California, I should have recalled that one needs to travel south, not north, on Kimball Avenue to get to Zanies' Comedy Club. I fixed this error in subsequent editions, but whether it was a valid topic for criticism is another story. In similar fashion, Elliot Perlman, author of Seven Types of Ambiguity and the forthcoming collection The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, writes that the film version of his novel Three Dollars, for which he also wrote the screen adaptation, was criticized for getting a street address wrong. "It's this kind of sharp, incisive film criticism that's made the Australian film industry what it is today," Perlman says.
Ah yes, the "Yes I was wrong but it's awfully small of you to notice and comment on it" school of thought.
Getting facts wrong drives me crazy as a reader. I've never gotten over Ann Rule's basic errors in Dead by Sunset.
I'm reminded of James Cameron's "insane" insistence on reshooting scenes in Titanic because the propellers on the ship were going the wrong direction.
Getting it right down to the smallest details is important for two reasons. First, as a reader, if something leaps off the page to me as a mistake (Ann Rule getting the name of a highway wrong) it breaks my concentration and pulls me right out of the story. Second, it makes me less trusting of her other facts. It's a hallmark of craft to get the details right. I respect that attention to detail.
Ann Rule writes non fiction. James Cameron was recreating something that actually happened. Does the same standard apply to fiction? Can you get it "wrong" if it's all made up anyway? I wonder if that's one of the reasons the late Ed McBain rechristened New York City for the 87th Precinct books. You can make the Hudson flow "wrong" if it's not the Hudson and it's not New York. Not that he ever did of course. I just made that up to illustrate my point.
Is it fair game in a review to point out an author's mistakes? You bet. Is it fair game to draw conclusions about the writer's skill and the success of the book from said mistake? Yea it is. If you don't like it...spend less time complaining and more time fact checking.