Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wild Inaccuracies in Classic Fiction

Today I:
  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk for breakfast
  • made myself a cafe au lait at work
  • am scarfing down a bag of Fritos for Second Breakfast

I was reading The Lost World last night (because I still haven't gotten myself a copy of The Life of Pi for Knit the Classics) when I stumbled across something that gave me pause. I'm not talking about the implicit (and sometimes explicit) racism and ethnocentrism, or how repulsive I find Gladys' mentality. It's difficult to find a pre-Civil Rights novel that, when touching upon other than mainstream WASP races/creeds/ethnicities/lifestyles, doesn't say something to make a liberal-minded 21st Century reader twitch. I expected that. I've read a lot of nineteenth century fiction and have developed coping mechanisms to deal with the things I don't like about them so that I can enjoy the things I do like.

But this. This thing I read last night. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was no botanist. He had redwoods growing along the Amazon. Redwoods. You know, the world's largest trees. The trees that only grow in coastal Northern California.

This reminds me of when I was reading Around the World in 80 Days a couple years ago. The problem - which, I must say, stopped me cold - was that Jules Verne was describing snowfall less than an hour by train outside of San Francisco. An hour by train in the Victorian Era is not very far, maybe 1/3 into the valley. Snow is very uncommon in San Francisco. Sacramento lies smack between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe (where I used to go skiing. There's snow there. they even make it.), and is well over an hour into the valley, but snow doesn't occur much there, either.

Interestingly enough, the longer I am away from California, the more Californian I become, even as I shove someone out of my way on the sidewalk. I can endure a lot of things - snow, brownfields, the word "wicked" - but not inaccuracies about Northern California.


Carrie K said...

The horror! Appropriating OUR redwoods.

Well, it did snow once in Concord. In 1975 or somewhere around there. Me and my best friend scraped up a "snowball" on the two block walk from school, only to have our mothers (from MI and WI) laugh hysterically at our efforts.

wenders said...

Hey - I am just catching up - but I HAVE a copy of the Life of Pi if you want to borrow it. :)