How Should Men and Women of Letters Respond to Debunkings of Texts They Cherish?


I was recently lucky enough to give a talk at MSU, which has a lovely campus. And yes, the size of this flag impressed me.

Former Reason intern Robby Soave, writing for Student Free Press, locates 10 universities that have assigned Greg Mortenson's now-discredited Three Cups of Tea as required reading for incoming students, and finds that "none have plans to discuss the book's inaccuracies with those students." Excerpt:

Linda Morse, chair of the First-Year Reading Experience at [Mississippi State University], would not say whether she believed students had been assigned a fraudulent book. But she did speak highly of the events and discussions that sprung from using the book in MSU's reading program. […]

"We used the themes in the book to help explore cultural themes that our students may not have been exposed to."

One of the events featured Mortenson himself. Morse held a positive view of his visit, even in light of the recent controversy.

"I found him to be a passionate speaker and a very humble man," Morse said. "I think our students were exposed to someone who had a very important message to talk about with them."

Soave also talks to Bill Steigerwald, author of the great recent Reason piece that found plenty of fiction in John Steinbeck's classic Travels With Charley. Speaking of which, Steinbeck's daughter-in-law, Gail Steinbeck, writes a withering letter to the editor of the Coastline Pilot saying "Basically, the Reason story is bogus." Excerpt:

This is Gail Steinbeck, giving the "Steinbeck Award" to Jackson Browne in 2002. No further comment.

Normally, the Steinbeck family would step back and let the story run its course, but Steigerwald has managed to keep the story running ad nauseam. To tell you the truth, I would never have jumped into the fray, but he is so ill-informed and has managed to reach such a wide audience, that it has become a little creepy. He is misleading the public and the problem is that he is incorrect in the majority of his assumptions.

Steigerwald responds in the comments. Excerpt:

Gail Steinbeck's comment is full of too many mistakes, wild assumptions and misrepresentations about me, my motives and my research/reporting habits to address all of them here. […]

The truth is, I started doing research/reporting and followed the facts (which have been gathering dust in the Steinbeck archives for 35 years). Any "educated scholar" with a skeptical gene in her body could have found out what I did.

Whole exchange here.