Tuesday, 22 November 2011

If you criticise the Oxford Companion to Beer, you’re a Nazi, says Protz

I was quite gobsmacked to read Roger Protz’s review of the Oxford Companion to Beer in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser. It’s mostly the same as the review posted on his web site a couple of weeks ago, but he has gone to the extra effort of including a newly written section attacking the book’s critics – 25% of the entire review is spent attacking Martyn Cornell and Alan McLeod.

When I criticised one of Roger’s articles in the Companion, he complained that I was condemning him in public for a piece that might have been edited. On the other hand, he is quite happy to pillory the critics of the book in the pages of the Morning Advertiser. I don’t know how many readers the Morning Advertiser has but I imagine it’s a bit more than the few hundred who follow me on Twitter. I’d be worried about the state of the pub industry if it weren’t.

Garrett Oliver has assured us that nobody is making any money off the Oxford Companion to Beer. In view of this I do ask myself exactly why old-guard beer writers are so eager to defame those who have raised criticisms of the book. Roger writes, rather immoderately: “In spite of this, the bloggerati have come piling in, damning the book and some saying it should be withdrawn. How they must wish they had been around in the 1930s when book-burning was in vogue.”

So there you have it. In Roger’s view, if you suggest that getting facts right is important, or that more robust editing might have eliminated a few howlers from the book, well, you might as well pull on your brown shirt and go sieg-heiling down the street.

Roger is on shaky ground when he accuses others of practices reminiscent of totalitarianism. It was his Speakwrite machine which set the record straight, after all, so now everyone knows that London brewery Barclay Perkins never existed

Roger lectures us: “It’s an established fact in publishing that most encyclopedias and dictionaries contain errors that are corrected for subsequent editions … Oxford University Press is a prestigious publisher and it will rapidly update the beer book.” I wonder how Roger thinks the OUP is going to correct the errors, if nobody points them out.


9 comments:

  1. Pete Brown's also put the boot into Martyn Cornell:

    http://www.just-drinks.com/comment/comment-beer-respect-find-out-what-it-means-to-me_id105552.aspx

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  2. Seeing as Garrett and the Oxford University Press approve of the intention of the wiki, it's only Protz that is sad.

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  3. It's a fair point about the corrections, as long as one didn't actually spend any money on the book. I wonder how much Roger paid for his?

    And it's perfectly possible to criticise and suggest corrections to a book one has only browsed in a bookshop. If it weren't, the Irish breweries section of the 2012 Good Beer Guide would be as full of errors and ommissions as the previous years'.

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  4. I know Garrett Oliver can't diss his own book, and I wouldn't, to be fair, expect him to, but to say, as he has, that the criticisms are merely "quibbling about matters of history that are highly disputed" is blinkered to the point of stumbling into the wall.

    And Pete Brown is a wonderful polemicist: I admire the way he dismisses one pretty minor error I pointed out, for being so minor, while completely ignoring the far more major errors that have been uncovered so far.

    The copy of the OCB that the OED is meant to be sending me as payment for the pieces I did for it has still not turned up in the UK: I'm getting my own from a nice bookshop here in Hong Kong. Unfortunately this has turned into a "gotcha!" exercise - and in addition, as others have pointed out, thannks to Alan Mc's wiki effort, the critics are providing a free fact-checking service for the OUP for the second edition.

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  5. Is anyone surprised by dear old Protzy? I think not. Pete Brown joining Roger's tag team is another matter. I had thought better of him, but perhaps, having taken the Kings Shilling, he feels obliged to earn it.

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  6. Heh. Orwell. Nice.

    The PMA piece seems to have vanished, but I note in his earlier piece he says the book has broadened his appreciation. That criticism simultaneously seems to have narrowed his mind is a lovely example of doublethink.

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  7. Apparently Alan NcLeod complained to William Reed, the publishers of the MA (or PMA, I suppose it should be called now), about how comparing him to a Nazi bookburner was a libellous attack on his reputation, and they took fright and scrubbed Protz's rant from their website. I can understand Alan's anger, though personally I take the view that the first person to break Godwin's Law
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law
    has immediately lost the argument anyway.

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  8. I think Protz is spot on. Everyone know that the way the Nazis dealt with claims and statements they didn't agree with was to politely point out their flaws and inconsistencies using careful research and clearly reasoned argument. NAZIS!

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  9. Who can forget that harrowing day when they burst into the Frank family annexe and told everyone they'd probably be better waiting for the second edition of Anne's diary.

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