Thursday, December 24, 2009

Introducing Another New Rubric: "quote unquote: bad history"

Every good phenomenon has to have its bad counterpart (like Captain Kirk's evil twin), and so it is only fair (and fun) to call attention to bad writing (mainly historical), as in the case of the good examples: as serendipity or whim may dictate.

A starter:

Neil Sheehan, whose study of a Vietnam policy-maker, A Bright and Shining Lie, won considerable acclaim, attempts to duplicate his success with a biography of Cold War missile engineer Bernard Schriever. Reviewer J. Peter Scoblic says it does not succeed, challenging the book's entire logic regarding the strategic and historical role of the ICBM. ("Did Missiles Win the Cold War? A Soulless New Book Gets the History Wrong," The New Republic, 2 Dec. 2009. Among other things, the review picks out "one of the book's more infelicitous sentences":
technology was in the saddle of a horse named Fear in a race of human folly
Ouch! None of my students this semester displayed such a misguided striving for effect (though there were other mistakes aplenty).

It's a target-rich environment out there.

Suggestions welcome here, too.

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