A source of immense delight to any columnist not in command of his facts must surely be the privilege of working for an editor who neglects to keep a weather eye on his writers’ flights of fancy. We can assume, therefore, that the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Richard Glover filed this week’s contribution in a state of near ecstasy. Here is how he begins his celebration of Australia Day:
“Mark Twain said Australian history was full of ‘the most beautiful lies’ – but it’s nothing compared to the lies we tell each other every day. Almost all the stereotypes about Australia – the things we actively promote and believe to be true – are the antithesis of what really goes on.”
Twain neither said nor wrote anything of the kind. Indeed, in his The Wayward Tourist, he said the exact opposite:
Australia’s past “does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies; and all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened.”
One day, just maybe, SMH editor Darren Goodsir will get around to reading page proofs before sending his publication to press. It might just save his masthead from embarrassment — allowing, of course, that the SMH still understands the meaning of that word, a dubious proposition.