Aargh! I should have known that you would call me on both my inconsistency and my irrationality.
You’re right, of course. I was being both inconsistent and irrational. (But it seemed so rational at the time!)
I think two key words you used in your post yesterday are “trust” and “perspective.” What makes us trust an author? How much of our own knowledge and perspective comes into it? It is, as you noted, reader-specific. Because, of course, I was in effect saying that it’s all about me-me-me! Someone writes about movies and places that I know and love and gets something wrong, and I’m deeply offended. Someone else does it about things I’m less attached to and I shrug it off. Someone else makes mistakes about something I know nothing about (Sydney, Australia?) and I don’t even notice, much less care.
I certainly take your point about feeling self-satisfied about the mistakes we notice, while there are undoubtedly hundreds or thousands we miss. Maybe we should ask why these mistakes are happening. In the comments, both Beth and Laura noted the role that copyeditors, fact-checkers and others have in the creation of a book, and how some books are more thoroughly vetted than others.
I guess in the examples I gave before, I felt that Tashjian’s errors were the result of laziness (and, yes, lack of copyediting and fact-checking), while Doctorow’s were more the kinds of mistakes that almost anyone who doesn’t actually live in the Bay Area would make, so they didn’t seem as egregious to me. Again, probably inconsistent of me, but there you have it.
I’ve certainly read many fiction books in which the author, either in a foreword or an afterword, has indicated that while the book was set in such-and-such a place, it is not meant to be an exact replica of that place, and that details were changed to serve the story. That seems to me one easy way to deal with the problem. It could work if either you don’t want to spend time checking the facts, or if, as in the One Crazy Summer case, you want to add a geographical feature as a metaphor for something else. Or you could do what Sue Grafton does in her Kinsey Millhone mysteries, and use a real place (Santa Barbara) but call it something else (Santa Teresa), so you can change things around at will and no one can complain.