Jonathan Yardley is right about how book publishers work [Style, Nov. 1]. More than 30 years ago, as the books editor of a national magazine, depressed by the torrent of shoddy books even then offered for review, I wrote an article suggesting that publishing houses limit themselves to titles the editor in chief had actually read and could defend at a dinner party of his or her more literate friends. I urged publishers to match the scruples of Detroit automakers by recalling faulty models, offering a sloppy translation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" as a likely case in point.
Soon afterward the wave of conglomerate acquisition of publishing houses set in, and the volume of shoddy and repetitious books skyrocketed. But the recall of a book does occasionally occur; St. Martin's withdrawal of J. H. Hatfield's Bush biography is one heartening example. It would be more heartening had it been done with a view to encouraging better checking in future, instead of as a temporary bow to scandal and the threat of a lawsuit.
Real and detailed fact checking, as practiced at magazines such as Time, the old New Yorker and Smithsonian is devoutly to be wished for. But it requires a large staff of researchers, and on occasion it cramps the style of high-flying writers.