February 26, 2015

The More You Know®: burnished pearls of bookish wisdom from wacky Wikipedia talk pages


Wikipedia: it’s not just for petty retribution and medical diagnosis.  Wards of our culture are duking it out right now on talk pages across the site, ensuring that only the most salient information makes it into your dinner anecdote, essay, or PhD dissertation. Read on for the finest examples from the sum of human knowledge.

The following excerpts have been edited for clarity and length.


When I searched for this page on Google the first sentence in the preview result was this: “Philip Milton Roth (born March 19, 1933) is a well-known asshole and novelist.” Is there something Wikipedia can do about this or not?
– Tomvasseur // Philip Roth

Descartes walks into a bar. The barman asks “Would you like a drink?” Descartes replies “I think not!” and swiftly disappears.
– Urgeblind // René Descartes

Surely, since Lee has written exactly one novel in her lifetime, describing her as an author is similar to describing Richard Branson as an aviator for flying a balloon a few times. In answer to the inevitable question of “what else would you call her?” I don’t know.

She’s an author. It’s not as if she wrote a cookbook or travel guide to Indiana. She wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that is taught in every English speaking country in the world.

The Richard Branson article is in the category for “English aviators.”

– Anon, Moni3, AdamSommerton // Harper Lee

I think this article should include the fact that Jonathan Safran Foer is the new god and overlord of the literary world.
– Anon // Jonathan Safran Foer

What does “nescesairily” mean? I cannot find a definition in Google Define, Webster’s Online Dictionary or Wiktionary. If this word exists, it is very uncommon. It should be replaced with a more common one to make the article more accessible.
– Pgan002 // Ursula K LeGuin

The section on this book seems to imply that there is only one bathroom at the University of Mexico City. This surely cannot be right?

– Macphysto // Roberto Bolaño

I have some theories that I have made up regarding Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I wish to air them in the section entitled “Theories”. I ask that 2-3 Wikipedians sign on to these conjectures so that they will have a sufficient number of believers to merit inclusion under the obviously high standards used thus far.

  1. Although Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works are commonly presumed to have been written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, space aliens wrote them.
  2. Franklin Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne were the same person. Think about it.
  3. A complex theory, still in development, involving a menage a trois between Sophia Peabody, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Franklin Pierce

Affix your name below to signal your belief in the above theories. Thank you for any help.
– Bill Oaf // Nathaniel Hawthorne

Has anyone actually heard him speak fluent German? Why the reluctance to do so publicly? Where did this claim originate?
– Anon // Jonathan Franzen

Really a swing and a miss by God, when he made Updike.
– Anon // John Updike

Just wondering why his marriage to Marilyn Monroe was omitted from the Wives and Mistresses section. Her wiki page lists the date of their marriage and divorce.

Then by all means fix/add it to this article.

Please don’t, since Norman Mailer was never married to Marilyn Monroe.

And, Monroe’s wiki article says nothing of the kind. Are you confusing Mailer with Miller? As in Arthur Miller? Mailer’s association with Monroe is due to him writing about her, not marrying her.

– hoodview, Softlavender, Nunh-huh, and Rossrs // Norman Mailer

Someone has added “Trevor Chandler” to the list of McCarthy’s children. I have never heard of him having any more than two children. Can someone source this?
-Dan S // Cormac McCarthy

“He currently lives outside of New York City.” Yeah, so do I—in Britain.
– Anon // Don DeLillo

There is a bit of vandalism under the section “Sexuality, existentialist feminism, and ‘The Second Sex'”. It reads, “She rode through the streets of America on her armadillo crying to all that the British were coming and would destroy them if they did not give women equal rights.”
– Uofkentucky2008 // Simone de Beauvoir

The band Bloc Party just released an album which outright references VALIS, and “the empire never ended” in “Coliseum.” I am not smart enough to edit the page to reflect this.
– Anon // Philip K. Dick

As an editor of this article, I should mention genealogical research indicates the subject was my fourth cousin, thrice removed.
– Thewellman // Jack London

James Joyce is not “one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century.” James Joyce is “one of the most influential writers of the early 20th century all around the world.”
– Sürrell // James Joyce

Amy Conchie is assistant to the publisher at Melville House.