By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

NYTBR reviewer asks a question she easily could have answered. So why didn’t she?

This rather odd section caught my eye in the print edition of today’s New York Times Book Review. It’s in the midst of a review of Michael Burlingame’s “An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd.” The reviewer is Amy S. Greenberg, a historian at Penn State. She writes:

Burlingame aggressively criticizes scholars who have suggested otherwise by interrogating the objectivity of their sources. Whether his own would withstand similar scrutiny is impossible to determine, given that the volume provides no citations (although an appendix suggests that research notes can be accessed online).

Well, can the research notes be accessed online or not? Did Greenberg try? Perhaps all of her doubts about Burlingame’s sourcing would have been answered. If she’s going to raise the question, she has an obligation to try to answer it.

Dumping the notes onto the web isn’t that unusual. When I was writing my first book, “Little People,” my editor at Rodale told me they wanted to publish my chapter notes online rather than waste money on precious extra pages. I pushed back and got them included in the book. This was in 2003, before most of us had broadband.

And if you’re thinking that Greenberg’s easily answered question slipped by an editor at the last minute, the review was first published on the Times’ website on June 1. Needless to say, there was plenty enough time to re-edit the review if anyone cared to do so.


In case you’re counting, that’s 152 pages of notes. In the comments, Iain Goddard found them, too.

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