Oooh, this is my first post in three months that's been written in the United States! Alas, I've been home a whole six days. No more Nottingham. No more attending a top 1% uni in England. :( To be fair, I did royally wear myself out climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, trying on old clothes in Bath's fashion museum (also the city where I crouched on a horribly stiff bean bag in a room with ten-ish of my fellow hostel guests and watched Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and therefore began my journey of learning the plot/watching all the Star Wars movies), exploring Dublin's cathedrals (just the outside because it was too expensive to go in!) and sitting in a bitty cafe called a Bit Out of Life (it's right down the street from Saint Patrick's Cathedral and it's warm, the food is cheap and amazing, and when my friends and I got up to leave a waitress blinked and said, "You're still here? You should be outside, exploring all those places on your map!"). I visited the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the National Portrait Gallery AND the National Gallery all in the span of maybe ten hours, and that's what brings me to the topic of this post.
Up an inch or two and to your right, you'll see the cover of Simona Bartolena's Monet, a Masters of Art book I found for just under ten pounds in the gift shop of the National Gallery in London. There were also ones on JMW Turner and van Gogh, but as I wrote a book that features Oscar-Claude Monet, I spazzed and bought the one on him and stuffed it deep into my backpack to take home to America and read at my leisure, a sort of fact check because all the info I used for Monet I got from...no one hurt me here...online. Especially Wikipedia.
Wikipedia was my amigo, my close comrade, my bosom friend while writing the first draft of Monet Evanesce (currently in it's...maybe third round of editing?) perhaps six months ago. It's the bane of public school teachers who nearly shook us by our shirt collars and vowed that Wiki lied and it was not a reliable source. A college student now, I took my past mentor's tongue lashing with a heavy grain of salt and a high level of aversion to lugging more reference books from the library than I already was. Who exactly were the Impressionists? What years did they operate? What works of art have been stolen during the 1900s, and from where? What is museum security like? How much absinthe can you drink before it's lethal? Let's check Wikipedia! These were all things I've wiki'd for my novel. No kid.
So I used the mighty W as my teacher, and now had this handy, and might I say, scholarly reference book in my hand. This morning I cracked it open while my sisters and I were making quiche, and started laughing as the crust browned in the oven and we sat at the kitchen table. Everything I'd written, all the facts....were correct. All of them! I'd been bracing myself for some serious plot holes, some horrendous rewrites, but Wikipedia proved very well informed. I'm not saying Wikipedia probably has some pages that are horribly, laughably incorrect, but mine weren't. I also learned a lot from Bartolena's book, fleshing out the bare skeleton of a man I'd read a couple web articles about. I also feel like a detective when I do book research, which is really dorky but it's so fun.
For example, I learned Monet painted TWELVE copies of Le Gare Saint-Lazare (Saint-Lazare train station in Paris, France), the painting one of my main characters forges. It's extremely crucial to the plot, and it just so happens to make everything easier since there are so many copies. In the late 1800s, it would've been much easier to pass off a painting when there were very similar yet unique versions. The one Wikipedia provided me with is below and to the left; at the National Gallery last Tuesday I saw the one on the right. Obviously different, yet done by the same person. Oh, and Bartolena's book offers close-ups and little bios on the pieces.
Wow, this was a long post. Apologies for that. I just really wanted to spread the word that Wikipedia's rap isn't as shady as public school portrays it, and I don't feel nearly as bummy as I did before for just looking something up real quick online! Whether writing or just for curiosity, have you ever found something utterly ridiculous on Wikipedia? I heard a rumor once that a school class wrote a paper on Stalin and, having used Wikipedia, turned in papers on how he was in a secret relationship with Adolf Hitler. That was probably a lie, though! Writers--do you spurn or embrace Wikipedia? Take it's facts with a grain of salt?