My blog is loaded with mistakes. Misspelled and missing words, usually. I figure most of them out and correct them eventually. Some slide right by for months or forever. Sometimes I might blame auto-correct, but more often it’s just my lousy typing.
I was reading a personal essay in a literary magazine. The piece has a title that includes a couple of food items, including a particular mushroom. I realize that the essay isn’t actually about mushrooms, but using them as a metaphor, but I don’t believe that is enough of an excuse to use a photo of chanterelles clear across the top of the page. I know my chanterelles. I’ve picked them and enjoyed eating them. They are not at all the species referenced in the essay title or the essay itself. I was completely distracted, scanning the essay for a reason that illustration was there. No. Apparently someone wanted an attractive photo of mushrooms. Any mushrooms.
If the designer had gone to Wikipedia, he or she would have found an image—not in the public domain but a source is available and likely would have allowed use. Or a photo of the other metaphorical food. That one would have been available at the local market for purchase and photographing. Wikipedia has a terrific photo that is free to use with credit. Not so very tricky.
Instead, a few hundred people are going to think Auricularia auricula-judae look like chanterelles. Different color, shape, texture and flavor.
I suppose this only bothers me. Like the writer who used the word “voodoo” in a novel that was supposed to take place close to a hundred years before that word was coined. Adult crows with pink legs. A cottonmouth snake a thousand miles outside its range. Horses and big cats and other animals behaving in impossible ways. I find such errors all the time. Sometimes I think: I could make that mistake (well, witness how often I do here). But other times I begin to doubt the narrative. I wish the author had completed just a bit more research. Sometimes the mistake just feels like carelessness. Indifference to truth. The “creative” in writing does not mean every- or anything is possible. Even a fantasy novel creates an internal consistency, rules by which the magic operates.
I’ve closed the page on that mushroom-not mushroom essay. It’s possible that the designer (I refuse to blame the author) used the wrong species of mushroom deliberately to make some sort of point or to drag me in. I should go back and reread to see if it was a plot designed to intrigue people like me. (Fusspots and picky-readers.)
But no. I am set off and distracted and writing my own blog post about how basalt lines my shore. When the tide is high a retreating wave tubes the stones over one another, clattering in a deep-throated tumble that very gradually rounds and smoothes their edges. (Yeah, that’s sandstone up at the top of this post. Different color, texture, shape, flavor. I could have posted a photo of basalt, but why?)