Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Publishing phony facts

You would think that a writer's career might be damaged by this NY Times book review:
If Charles Pellegrino weren't so shamelessly self-promoting, it might be O.K. to let this book drift into oblivion past the icebergs that it ought to hit. But he quotes himself in epigraphs, invents friendships with famous people and claims scientific authority for a work that flouts most principles of scientific scholarship. He shouldn't get away with it.
But he got another book published, and it is getting worse treatment:
In the case of “The Last Train From Hiroshima,” the author, Charles Pellegrino, said he had been duped by a source and insisted that other sources the publisher questioned definitely existed. ...

Mr. Pellegrino said he had relied on information from a source, Joseph Fuoco, who claimed he was a last-minute substitute as a flight engineer on one of the escort planes for the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Late last month, scientists, historians and veterans denounced Mr. Fuoco as an impostor who did not ride on the mission. ...

Mr. Pellegrino said he had been awarded the doctorate at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand in the early 1980s and then stripped of it a few years later because of a disagreement with department members over evolutionary theory. “It got to be a very hot and nasty topic in 1982,” Mr. Pellegrino said in a telephone interview. ...

In a telephone interview Mr. Pellegrino talked repeatedly of his supporters, including Stephen Jay Gould, who died in 2002, but who, according to Mr. Pellegrino, knew that he had been academically persecuted.
Earlier, this book got a rave review in the NY Times.

I guess that it is impractical for most publishers and book reviewers to do any fact-checking.

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