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Culture & Religion

Philip Roth’s Squeaky Wheel Gets the Wikipedia Grease

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Roth resorts to public channels to get a Wikipedia entry changed...and succeeds.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

After writing an open (and, of course, extremely eloquent) letter that was published in the New Yorker, Philip Roth got his wish: Wikipedia has changed its entry on his novel The Human Stain to indicate the proper source for its protagonist Coleman Silk. Rather than listing the late New Yorker critic Anatole Broyard as the inspiration, the entry will now indicate that Princeton professor Melvin Tumin, also deceased, was the one who spoke the key sentences from which the novel grew.

What’s the Big Idea?

Roth’s original request to Wikipedia was denied, even though he was the author of the work, because the site administrator claimed it needed “secondary sources.” Because Wikipedia is an open-source site that, theoretically, anyone can edit, all Roth needed to do was have an assistant (one presumes he has at least one) go in and make the change. However, with enough street cred, which the Pulitzer Prize winner obviously has, not only can you write a letter and get it published in a major magazine and expect results, you can have that same letter referenced in the Wikipedia entry itself.

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