Book Review: Hemingway Didn’t Say That

Have you ever heard a quote attributed to a specific person and thought, “did they really say that?” Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media outlets circulate countless sayings supposedly coined by Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and many others. Oftentimes, the attribution alone seems to give the quote more clout. hemingwaydidntsaythat

But did they really say those things we think they said? Even worse, some quotes are attributed to numerous people. Which person actually said it? Did any of them say it? I am that skeptic. I used to be the quoter. My innocent heart assumed that people would not attribute a quote to someone if it wasn’t something they actually said. So I would copy and paste and repeat and basically contributed to the fall of accurate information. But as time went on, and probably after seeing a few too many quotes attributed to more than one person, I began to question the veracity of the attributions I was seeing.

Enter, this book. Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations by Garson O’Toole caught my eye by the title alone. wanted to know the truth behind familiar quotations. So I snagged a Kindle copy. This was several years ago. I have finally been able to settle in and finish this informative book.

Hemingway Didn’t Say That is a book that is exactly what you expect. O’Toole opens the book by telling the story of how he got here, writing a book about misquotes and misattributions. To make a very long story short, he was part of the program that converted countless books into eBooks through Google Books. These books are searchable, and through a series of events, O’Toole created a website called Quote Investigator. O’Toole regularly posts articles from his quote research on his website.

His book, Hemingway Didn’t Say That, is a discussion of his research, trends in misquotes and misattributions, and results of his research into some of the more popular quotes. The book is separated into different sections by type of misquote. It’s incredibly fascinating to see how a quote goes from being attributed to the right author to being matched with a completely different person. O’Toole finds as many instances of the quotes and their variations as possible and traces the possible path from accuracy to error.

A truly fascinating book, Hemingway Didn’t Say That, is the perfect book for anyone who really wants to know… did Hemingway really say that?

Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations by Garson O’Toole gets 3/5 stars.


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