Discover more from TBD (maybe never)
we do regret the error
Every writer dreads corrections, I think. The email from a reader or a source, the actually or even worse the gentle suggestion. Despite your fact-checker, despite your science readers (I had both), things get missed. Things go wrong.
I found a handful of mistakes when I was recording my audiobook; they’ve been corrected in the ebook and will be fixed for the paperback, whenever that happens. Buy enough copies and we could get a second hardcover printing, too, which would approach pristine perfection.
I feel lucky, in this, that I don’t write memoir. My mistakes are, so far, mostly typos and flubs—1997 for 1977, in one case. No one’s calling to say “I don’t remember it like that” or “How could you write me like that.”
Or so I thought.
My mom called today, she’s loving the book she says. She’s halfway through chapter six, she says, flying through the audiobook. Oh I’m so glad, I say. And then: I have a correction.
My stomach sinks. Because I know this isn’t about physics or astronomy, I know she didn’t catch a misspelling of a scientist’s name.
So she told me, and I’m going to correct the record. I will, though, not be changing the book, because, A, this would be a bigger revision than I’m allowed to make at this stage, and B, I hope there’s an implicit “I remember,” and this is, still, how I remember how this conversation used to go.
This is the passage in the book (which my mom read to me over the phone, which sounded eerily like my own reading on the audiobook, I guess because she’d just read and I suppose because she’s my mom):
There are always corners we can’t see around, technologically, conceptually, artistically. My mom used to tell me, “You can’t imagine what love is until you have a child,” and I always thought she meant more love (and was perhaps* one chardonnay too deep). I didn’t realize until I had my own son that she wasn’t talking about quantity but about how love becomes something utterly different, a singularity of sureness of feeling. There’s what we can imagine, and then there’s what we can know.
*I love you, mom
“That’s not what I said,” she told me on the phone. “I said You can’t understand how much I love you until you have a child. And,” she added, “I never had to be drunk to say that.”
I misremembered. I turned it into something else in my head over the years. But a lot like the bit about the alien anus, in my misremembering I changed the shape of what I didn’t understand, and still came around to what she’d wanted me to know.
I’m always defensive, though, so while I apologized I also pointed out, “But look at the bottom of the page mom, read the footnote.” “I know, you said on the audiobook, I’m sorry mom.” “No, I said, I love you, mom. It’s in the book, too.”
She said that when she heard me say that in the audiobook, she didn’t realize it was also in the book. She felt like I was speaking right to her. Which, of course, I was. Both are true.
This Thursday, June 29, I’ve got my last planned book event, with Queens Public Library’s Literary Thursdays. The event is virtual, and I hope you’ll join.
And! If your work in the world includes organizing literary events or readings or a book festival, I would love to do more. I will zoom into your book club! I also run writing and creativity workshops for students, scholars, writers, and professionals, so for any of that, hit me up.
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