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"Martin D. Zehr" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Nov 2006 21:32:34 +0000
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I certainly agree with Jules that many of the errors can be attributed to
editorial slips.  As an example, Powers makes a reference to Keokuk being in
"southwestern Iowa," an error that no one, myself included, could conclude
was the product of his pen, or word-processor.  Most dates might have
negligible importance, in the context of a 600-page work, but they are
nonetheless worth noting, in service of a "scholarly duty," as Jason Horn
notes.  In one chapter, Powers makes a reference to all the important events
occurring in 1895, presaging the modern era, including the publication of
Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams."  Actually, "Dreams" didn't make its
appearance, which went largely unnoticed, until 1900, a fact which does not
seriously undermine the point Powers was making.

I had what I considered the great privilege of interviewing Ron Powers in
Elmira in August, 2005 for a review of his book which appeared the next
month in the Kansas City Star.  In the course of the interview I made a
reference to both the above errors and, while little time was spent in the
discussion, I do recall that he was concerned that they had slipped through
the net, so to speak.  On the other hand, I should note, it was my opinion
then, as it is now, that Powers' biography is the finest attempt at a
comprehensive look at its subject since Paine, and the fact that us
carrion-pickers can find mistakes would never deter me from recommending it
unhesitatingly to anyone attempting to get a grip on the source of our
eternal, infernal ruminations and explorations.

Martin Zehr
Kansas City, Missouri