1. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Mistakes by famous writers

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jannert, Jul 26, 2013.

    It might help new writers to realise that they're not the only ones who can make mistakes.

    Just ran across something that made me remember one in particular, made by the well-respected and very popular author Larry McMurtry. It happens in his book, the sequel to Lonesome Dove, called Streets of Laredo.

    In this book, the main character gets old, tangles with a young whippersnapper outlaw who beats the tar out of him. By the end of the encounter, the old hero has lost his right arm (yes, he's right-handed) AND his left leg. He now needs to find a purpose in his life, so he searches about to find something new to occupy his time ...to make the remainder of his life worth living.

    What does he take up? Wait for it. Whittling sticks. (!!!)

    I read the passage several times, then re-read the bit leading up to it, thinking ...yo, I've missed something. But no. He finds contentment in stick-whittling. Furthermore, he gets really good at it. One of his character traits is that he's really good at lots of stuff.

    So, Mr McMurtry, enquiring minds want to know HOWWWWW in blazes does a one-armed, one-legged man whittle a stick? I'm not saying he can't whittle a stick. I'm just saying, as a reader, I want to know HOW. Does he clench the wood between his rapidly-loosening front teeth and hack away at it with his bad hand? He sure as hell can't clap it between his knees and hold it there, can he? Can he, Mr McMurtry? And still be the best darned whittler in six counties? You never told us, dagbaggit.

    Thank you, Mr McMurtry, for making my day ...again.

    Can anybody else think of any clangers along this line...?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    LOL. Clearly, Mr. McMurtry's editor didn't know what whittling was.

    The biggest clanger I can think of is not from a novel but from a film adaptation of one. When they made the film version of Tom Clancy's Patriot Games, Clancy went postal because there was a scene in which a ship went down in Chesapeake Bay after hitting a coral reef (footnote - there are no coral reefs within several thousand miles of the Chesapeake). I wonder if anyone at Paramount knew anything about whittling.
     
  3. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey J, at the risk of killing your thread. It won't scan but I've transcribed that missing page you were after.


    474


    ‘That was some encounter with the whippersnapper,’ said doc. ‘What exactly did happen?’

    ‘You see, my chum, the pepperpot...simple as all the guys had predicted, well it was no match for the dragoon saber.’

    ‘You’re telling me.’

    ‘On my honor I discharged the cartridges into the air. Seeing this, young bloodguts - he rushes me and swipes off my right arm.’

    ‘And it’s lying out there in the dirt. I can see it from here.’

    ‘Look doc, you stand back from the window. Got any more of that whisky?’

    ‘Seems those coyotes are chewing over something.’

    ‘That’d be my left leg.’

    ‘Of course it is. Listen old-timer I have something here that might just see you right. You heard the term prosthetics? I’ll take a look in the trunk. I think maybe I have...they cost an arm and a leg.’

    ‘Damn your snake hips.’

    ‘Hey, a ‘lil humor hereabouts ain’t gonna hurt nobody. Grit this between your teeth, and I'll write my cousin. He has a stick factory up in, ehmm... Anchorage.’
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There is one scene in a Dostoevsky novel where a character enters a room and then gets up from a sofa a short while later, even though there is no mention of him ever sitting down. It's a minor thing, but it's still a mistake in my mind.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm... he whittles his own prosthetics? I never thought of that. Of course. Thanks for finding that lost page, M, but ...wouldn't it be kind of like losing your eyeglasses? You know, you can't look for 'em till you find 'em kinda thing?

    That's right up there with tigers in Africa... who did that? Can't remember, but it was some famous author.

    That Dostoevsky thing ...one of those mistakes that can get made with editing. Maybe he was 'telling' instead of showing when he sat the guy down, and some critique got him to remove the offending passage? Only he didn't replace it? :) That's the danger with editing, especially a long piece. Pull a thread, and instead of a story you end up with a tangled ball of yarn...or a tangled yarn, anyway...
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There was another mistake in Crime and Punishment. In the first half of the book, Dostoevsky says that the police station is open late on Saturdays, but in the second half, Dostoevsky seems to forget this fact and writes that the police station always closes at 6 on Saturdays. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but it's something along those lines.

    I think part of the reason why Dostoevsky made mistakes so often was because of how quickly he finished novels (to support his gambling addiction).
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't know that. Poor guy. It's a really awful addiction, and, like Robbie Coltrane's onscreen wife in the TV series Cracker said once: "It's so limitless."
     

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