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Picking the Wrong Nits

January 03, 1988

Michael Wilmington's review of "Reel Politics" (The Book Review, Dec. 20) devotes almost half of its space to nit-picking about minor proofreading errors, proving of little interest to readers. Who really cares whether Orson Welles was 25 or 26 when he made "Citizen Kane" or about the spellings of Sissy, Woodie and Scorsese? Some of author Terry Christensen's errors are howlers, but most are immaterial.

If Wilmington is auditioning for a job as a proofreader, I say fine, give the man a job. But as a critic, his task is to convey and evaluate the substance of the author's book, and in this department he's woefully lacking; I can't tell what the book's ultimate objective is, or who its intended audience is. A book should be evaluated relative to its own intentions, not according to what the critic would have done in the author's place.

It sounds to me like Wilmington would like to have seen another book altogether, one for the serious movie buff who gets excited about a director's age, but that doesn't seem to have been Christensen's intention. Perhaps Wilmington should write his own book someday for the select few like himself. In the meantime, if he cares to review books by other authors, he would do well to critique them relative to their own intentions, not his.

JUDITH CANTOR

Beverly Hills

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