It Takes an Open Letter to Wikipedia for Philip Roth to Get a Correction

Mr. Roth, literary lion. (Photo:

Like any good high school English teacher, Wikipedia requires writers to cite sources. The site can’t have the subject of an article merely leap in and say, “NUH-UH.” How would they ever write anything negative about anyone, were it otherwise? Winona Ryder might like to edit that business about shoplifting right out of her biography, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

And that is why Philip Roth had to publish an open letter to Wikipedia–in the New Yorker–to get the crowd-created encyclopedia to admit that his book, The Human Stain, was probably not based on the life of literary critic Anatole Broyard. (In the course of his lengthy rebuttal, Mr. Roth refers to it as a “falsity,” based upon “the babble of literary gossip.”) Read More