Add Philip Roth to the growing roster of people unhappy to discover what someone else has written about them online. The author today issued a 2,500-plus-word missive to Wikipedia, informing the online encyclopedia that its entry regarding his novel “The Human Stain” contains "a serious misstatement."
"When, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the 'English Wikipedia Administrator'... that I, Roth, was not a credible source: 'I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,' writes the Wikipedia Administrator' -- but we require secondary sources,'" Roth writes in an "open letter," published online by The New Yorker.
Specifically, Roth takes issue with a statement in Wikipedia that his book is "allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard.” Instead, Roth says, the novel was inspired by "an unhappy event in the life of my late friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton for some thirty years."
Now that Roth's letter has been published -- and Wikipedia can cite it as a source -- the entry about “The Human Stain” has been revised.
While Roth is hardly the only one to feel aggrieved by information posted online -- just consider the number of libel lawsuits filed about Web content -- he might well be the only one to successfully rebut false information in a magazine piece.