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Hemingway Didn't Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations Hardcover – April 1, 2017
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“The book grew out of a wonderful website O’Toole has been conducting since 2010…[O’Toole] brings mad research skills and dogged determination to tracking down the real stories behind famous quotations.”—The Chronicle of Higher Education
“In Hemingway Didn’t Say That, Mr O’Toole trains his analytical eye upon a series of well-loved quotations to find their true and unexpected origins. Famous names whom we discover to be not quite as pithy or witty as we thought include Ms Marilyn Monroe, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and (probably one of the most misquoted men ever), Mr Mark Twain.”—Mr. Porter
“Garson O’Toole is the Sherlock Holmes of quotation sleuths, and Hemingway Never Said That provides an intriguing, behind-the-scenes look into his case files. A thoroughly enjoyable book on its own, and an essential reference work for those who take their quotations seriously.” —Dr. Mardy Grothe, author of Metaphors Be With You
“There is not—and never has been—anyone better at elucidating the early history of quotations than Garson O’Toole.” —Charles Clay Doyle, co-compiler of The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs
“When I was compiling the Yale Book of Quotations, I thought that would be my greatest contribution to the quotation addicts of the world. Now I know that my real greatest contribution has been to inspire Garson O’Toole. Anyone who loves quotations, which is just about everybody on the planet, should devour Hemingway Didn't Say That.” —Fred R. Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations
“You don't need to be a detective to appreciate all the research that went into this book. Along the way, pay attention to Garson O’Toole's bag of verification tricks. This entertaining book is a must for librarians, professors, journalists, and others who cherish accurate, properly attributed information.” —David H. Rothman, editor-publisher of TeleRead
“[A]n excellent introduction to the subject…of what today might be called literary ‘fake news.’" —The Washington Times
"Glorious…seldom is academia in the raw this much fun"—Buffalo News, Editor's Choice
"Lovers of quotes will undoubtedly want to keep this book close at hand."—Bayou Catholic Monthly
About the Author
Garson O’Toole has researched the origins of familiar quotations for years at www.quoteinvestigator.com. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Slate, USA Today, and many other publications.
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Now, mind you, this is a topic that interests me. Heck, the only reason I don't have a tattoo right now is I finally settled on the exact one I wanted, a quote I'd seen attributed time and again to Robert Frost that would have been perfect. Except before getting it permanently imprinted upon myself, I wanted to verify the source... at which point I hit a stumbling block. I was unable to find any verifiable source, other than collections of internet quotes. I even turned to our local library's research librarians for help, and they came back with the same. Lots of people SAY he said it, but there's nothing anyone could find to verify that he did (or who else originally did, for that matter). And so, to this day, Heather remains untattooed.
So, this is the kind of stuff I love, finding out the real truth behind the things we pass from person to person somehow trusting it because it comes up on a nice picture online, or is being shared by someone we respect. (I could do a whole segue into the whole "fake news" issue of the moment, but will spare you.)
All of this to say... I went in primed. The opening of the book was actually a good overview of the different ways quotes can end up misattributed, and I expected more information on each in the coming chapters, and then we moved into the meat of the book itself and.... it was basically Steak 'Ums.
This reads like (heck, it might even <b>be</b>, but I'm so worn out from slogging through the whole thing to want to do any research of my own right now) a series of blog posts. And not particularly engaging blog posts at that.
Each section is a quote showing who it is most commonly attributed to, and then tracing its most likely actual origins. There were two problems for me: 1. the format got old fast, and there were a LOT of quotes. 2. The greater problem - the writing just wasn't engaging.
It reminded me of reading a late elementary schooler's history paper. Date, event, name. Date, name, event. There wasn't context, there wasn't insight, there wasn't commentary. It was all well researched and sources were perfectly cited, but... *yawn* It just was not a writing style that worked in book length for me. I'd probably have enjoyed these from time to time as a single article or blog post, but to read them all back-to-back (er, back-to-front if we're going to be technical) just became tedious.
Which really stinks, because I was so excited to have a non-fiction Kindle First choice at all, never mind one about a subject in which I was truly interested. Boo.
And the longer human beings are in existence the more likely we are to say something someone else said even if we never heard it before.
I plan on fact checking, and even writing down any future quotes I may use. I don't want to be part of perpetuating misquotes!
Writers on words and language frequently engage their readers with a bit of style and attitude to spice up what could be a dreary litany of cites and lack of cites. That style is easily overdone, but the fact that most such writing is consumed in half-page or page-long chunks mitigates the potential pall. This book goes in the opposite direction - the scholarship is admirable, but it's rather dry, and some of the "quotes" tracked down are not only unfamiliar but the tiniest bit dull.
It reads like a scholarly tome, so can't be recommended as entertainment. As scholarship it's superb, apparatus and all.