Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, May 06, 2013

The silent screen vamp Theda Bara

Dear Mr. Rosenbaum,

Few things are quite as irritating as coming across on page 487 a passage that would have, if encountered earlier, led one to heave the book into the wastepaper basket and get on with one's life.

You write
He draws on his decidedly arcane knowledge of popular culture history to give me an example.
"There was a rumor that the the silent-film actress Theda Bara chose her name because it was a close anagram of 'death arrow'.  That had nothing to do with it, it was simply that she was Theodosia Goodman and needed a new name and chose Theda Bara.  But even if she didn't have the slightest intention for it, the 'death arrow' rumor affected the way audiences saw her. (I couldn't help wondering if there was an intentional or inadvertent linkage between 'death arrow' and "Shake-speare")
Three second's thought suffices to indicate that Booth did not say that Theda Bara was a close anagram of 'death arrow' but rather that it was a precise anagram of 'arab death'. Because
(a) it is,
(b) there is no such thing as a 'close anagram' and never has been,
(c) the rumor was, in fact, historically, that Theda Bara was an anagram of 'arab death';
"In promoting the 1917 film Cleopatra, Fox Studio publicists noted that the name was an anagram of Arab death"

 What, then, can one deduce from this episode of crystalline vacuity?

1) you don't think about what you write;
2) you don't keep adequate notes of your interviews:
3) absolutely everything touches off an occasion for the exercise of your conviction that your lightest thought is worthy of print.

 I acknowledge that the fault is partly mine. I had, after all, read as far as page 487.

I trust that you will be prepared to take on the remainder of the responsibility for my wasted time.


Chris Borthwick

The silent screen vamp Theda Bara
Was born in the desert Sahara
It was, was it not,
The Oasis of Tuat,
And what, one might ask, could be fairer?

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