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Wikipedia and the existential status of divorce

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The brilliant novelist (and source of highly underrated TV adaptation) Emily St. John Mandel recently got divorced, and tried to get Wikipedia’s bio to reflect this so as to not mislead the family and friends of her new partner. This turns out to be surprisingly difficult:

The showrunner of Station Eleven, Patrick Somerville, recently promised—in response to a number of series vanishing off streaming platforms—that if the show ever disappeared he would “purchase one acre of land somewhere in the Mojave desert and just play it on loop, projected on a rock, forever.” Is that the optimal viewing experience for Station Eleven?

Yes.

So, are you married these days?

No.

Really! So you can confirm here in Slate dot com that you are not just, like, spending some time away, but are literally d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d.

Literally! The marriage ended the first week of April, after which I spent most of the rest of 2022 in divorce settlement negotiations and then received a judgment of divorce in November.

There is, in fact, a specific reason we’re doing this interview, which is that you have been having trouble getting Wikipedia to recognize your divorce. Can you tell me about that Sisyphean trial?

A long time ago, I want to say 2012, I gave an interview to Publishers Weekly where I talked about my marriage. So there was this fairly major publication wherein I’d talked about being married, and it turned out that worked against me when trying to get Wikipedia to recognize my divorce. According to a Wikipedia editor, I needed a comparable citation to get the change made on the page.

So my Wikipedia entry was essentially a time capsule. It bothered me that it was no longer accurate, but also it was kind of awkward for my girlfriend. I didn’t love that if her friends looked me up, they’d think she was dating a married woman. I needed an interview, and I knew it would be hard for my publicists to make a story happen in the last week before Christmas, so I thought, “maybe I’ll try Twitter?”

I’m so grateful for the response. It means a lot that people responded so quickly.

Well, this is what journalism is all about: righting wrongs. Thanks for emailing with me.

This is why we have to hope that Elon gets bored with Twitter and walks away before he destroys it completely.

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