Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Ministry of Truth Vetted My Library Book (by res ipsa loquitur)

When I mentioned that I am reading I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage, I neglected to say that I discovered something astonishing about this book -- well, about the copy I got from the library, anyway -- before I'd read even a few pages.

Someone -- a previous borrorower, I assume, and not someone at the library, I pray -- "edited" the library's copy. It was as though somewhere, some little true believer at the Ministry of Truth had pored over I Don't and "corrected" it to conform to some Wingnuttia Manual of Style. A few examples:

  • The author uses "Before the Common Era" and "Common Era" in place of "Before Christ" and "Anno Domini" respectively, because "Jewish tradition and current standards of political correctness" require the use of religiously neutral terms. (We'll table the author's capitulation to the wingnut trope of "political correctness".) So throughout the book, our little propagandist has blacked out the "E" in "BCE" and blacked out "AD" and substituted it with "BC". Even the footnotes have been edited! That's a lot of work in a book of history.
  • All references to god that rely on a personal pronoun have been capitalized, i.e., "he" to "He".
  • Lots of ominous underlining of passages, for example:
"Suppose you allow [women] to acquire or extort one right after another, and in the end to achieve complete equality with men, do you think that you will find them bearable? Nonsense. Once they have achieved equality, they will be your masters."
(That's Cato, by the way.) And this:
Through it all, Augustus proselytizes "family values" as tirelessly as any Republican politician in America today, with the same old goal in mind: to encourage reproduction.

What with the BCE/BC and god stuff, above, I assume the vandal is nodding in agreement with the first passage and tsk-tsking the author's "liberal bias" with regard to the second.
  • To be fair, our editor has also marked actual non-controversial typographical errors, of which there are several.
All of this editing was done in ink, which is a bummer, because I could easily have been as obsessive and thorough in erasing the "corrections" as the editor had been in making them. So because this editorializing irritated me, last night I bought a new copy of the book and will return that unmolested one to the library on the due date.

Take that, Wingnut!

(Who defaces library books? Sheesh.)