In November of 1988, Robin Woods was sentenced to sixteen years in the notoriously harsh Maryland Correctional Institution. In prison, Robin Woods found himself using a dictionary to work his way through a book for the first time in his life. It was a Mario Puzo novel. While many people become highly educated during their incarceration, Robin Woods became such a voracious and careful reader he was able to locate a factual error in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. He wrote a letter to the encyclopedia’s editor, Mark Stevens, beginning an intricate friendship that changed the lives of both men.
Contributor Daniel A. Gross has the story.
Update: The New Yorker’s website ran a print version of Daniel’s story in September.