During the past week, blogs and writing press have covered various stories concerning plagiarism. Each time I read such a story I think of the musical Rent, which I saw in New York eight years ago. At that time, I didn't know what I do now. If I did, I would not have watched the musical as I never went to the movie. I met Sarah Schulman at Goddard College four years ago. I knew she was a playwright and novelist, with 13 books to her credit. MFA students thought she was tough. What I never knew and what she never discussed—at least with me—was that in 1996 she noticed that Rent “seemed to borrow characters and situations from her novel People in Trouble. In her 1998 book Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America, Schulman lists the similarities between the two works,” wrote Jane Thomas for Slate. By the time Thomas wrote the piece, I had learned the story, primarily from reading Stagestruck. What I don't understand is how I missed the Slate article, which appeared this past November 23. I get an Slate RSS feed. The interview between Thomas and Schulman reveals much about the nature of ideas in 21st Century America. Therefore with “elders” of society playing loose and free with ideas as the case of those raised by Schulman in People in Trouble, it's not surprising that a Harvard student would find herself in a plagiarizing scandal. For an excerpt from Schulman's new novel, The Child which Carroll and Graff will release this year, click this link to Zeek.

Advertisements

Her boyfriend was a warrior, but he was in jail down in Cheyenne. I was the only one she knew who had a car and I told her I'd drive her down there to bail

him out. It was right around that time that I decided I'd rob a bank for her if she asked me to. She said it was up to her to save him. She had three hundred of the bail money and I loaned her the rest. If we drove straight through, we could get there in a day.

We didn't pack any clothes or anything. She got the call and got the money together. I picked her up in the early morning and we were on the highway when the sun came up. We had the windows down. It was the beginning of summer and was already hot. Her long black hair whipped around in the wind, but never got in her face. I thought it might have been because it was trained not to, all those years of her ancestors riding on the backs of horses. I wondered what she was thinking behind her sunglasses.

Read the rest of Aaron Hellem's story in SNReview.

Beatrice seems to think I’m Holly Golightly. I don’t know where she could have gotten such an idea; I guess to any sheltered Chinese girl who grew up in the sanitized suburbs of Marin County, a 27-year-old half-breed cousin (Ma married white) living in Manhattan by herself has got to seem glamorous. Never mind that I seldom go to parties and always leave early when I do. Never mind that I balance my checkbook and usually go Dutch on dates. And never mind that I’m an office temp and that my apartment is one room with the kind of particle board furniture even college students turn down. At least the ones at Harvard, which Beatrice was attending when she first came to visit me.

She came for Thanksgiving her freshman year, since her folks said it was too expensive for her to fly back home for just a couple of days. This I found hard to believe. Aunt Rose was the type who wouldn’t admit that anything was too expensive. Or, even if forced to admit it, she’d go ahead and buy whatever-it-was anyway. Her husband, Herman Yau, was a well-known architect and made big bucks, but not big enough for her spending habits. Meanwhile my mother, Rose’s older sister, whose husband washed dishes and checked inventory in the restaurant they owned, had a saint’s tolerance for her family members’ quirks. Why not let Miranda run off to New York, alone, without a real job? Why shouldn’t Rose buy a new car when she never drove the two she already had? (One was always in the shop, she explained, and the other was a stick shift; Rose hated driving stick.) In her late middle age, nothing particularly shocked or perturbed Ma any more, which made my “running off” to New York seem no more daring than a haircut. And yet somehow I’d gained a reputation with Beatrice as being bohemian, free-spirited, the black sheep of the entire clan…

To read more of the story, click.

The Morality of Everyman
When I read the reviews of Philip Roth's new novel, Everyman, I had forgotten about the morality plays of that very name where death comes for Everyman and he must hunt for character witnesses. Adam Kirsch of the New York Sun, for which my grandfather was city editor in the 40s, did not forget in his essay “The Music of Self-Justification.”

Smiley Continues
In her exploration of literature,
Jane Smiley picks up a curious read: Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogal. She writes that on the back of the 1962 edition, translated by Bernard Farbar, Ernest Hemingway said: “One of the 10 greatest books of all time!” Smiley adds: “Well, maybe yes. If not one of the 10 greatest, certainly one of the greatest, if by great we mean that much of the time a reader is reading Taras Bulba, she experiences a conscious and pressing feeling of pleasure and admiration, or if by great we mean that some of the feelings one experiences are simultaneously strange and profound, as if the author's take on things is not merely original, but unprecedented.”

Why So Many Prizes?
“The prize [Orange Prize] is necessary because the most prestigious prize-giving culture in Britain still often shows itself weirdly unable to recognize and reward the greatest writing, and for some reason books by women are still often the ones that lose out,” writes
Natasha Walter in The Guardian.

Flogging Plagiarists
In his essay “Why Plagiarists Do It? Because They Can,” which appeared in Slate.com,
Jack Shafer takes plagiarists to task.

April 26, 2006

Roth's New Pose
Usually Philip Roth does not pose for cover art when he releases a new book. That changed with the release of Everyman. “The reason for Mr. Roth's pre-emptive photographic strike is that Everyman is a book about mortality. It begins in a graveyard and ends on the operating table. …[He] is hoping that ht epictorial evidence on the book's jacket will stave off autobiographical interpretations,” writes
Charles McGrath for the New York Times. He is also a “featured author” in the Times.

Plagiarism in the New England Water?s
Yesterday chic lit was plagiarized. Today it is revealed that Raytheon's CEO William Swanson stole some his management ideas from a book written three score years ago by W.J. King, an engineering professor. Read
Robert Weisman's article in Boston.com. Goes to show: some ideas never grow old.

Does Punctuation Matter?
That's what Lynne Truss, the author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, tries to discover working with some English students. The Guardian has the first episode of the series available on a
QuickTime, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player download.

Orange Prize Short List
The
Orange Prize for Fiction announced its shortlist: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, The Accidental by Ali Smith, On Beautyby Zadie Smith, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany, and The Night Watch by Sarah Waters.

Norman Mailer on the World
What else would Norman Mailer talk about? His book, The Big Empty, in which he wrote: “The more powerful we become, the more ignorance we reveal of the nature of other cultures because knowledge is now too easy to acquire.” Not really.
Financial Times writer Daniel Swift talks to Mailer– “the grandest liberal journalist alive in the U.S.”–before Mailer was to receive the the French press's Legion d'Honneur for his contribution to literature and connection to France.

Oh My God! Did I Plagiarize? Asks Harvard Student
Chic-lit wunderkid Kaavya Viswanathan might have plagiarized parts of her novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. Not one of the more insightful pieces of literature that came out this year, but a book with such commercial promise that its publisher Little Brown signed her with a half million dollar contract, not bad for a nineteen year old. Read
Dinitia Smith's article in the New York Times. Read the Harvard Crimson's version. The Harvard paper broke the story.

Writing School Fervor Hits Britain
Following in the footsteps of American universities, British institutions are hiring Britain's authors to teach an unprecedented number of students, according to Julie Henry for the London
Telegraph. A decade ago, only 10 universities had post-graduate writing courses. The number leaped to 85. That's nothing. MFA's in creative writing are popping like mushrooms, especially the distant learning type of which there was once just one, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. Within driving distance of my home, Western Connecticut State University opened a program a year ago and Fairfield University announced its intentions to start one. Now here comes the question. Are there too many? Personally I believe that all MFA applications should include a warning: CAUTION: Writing for a living is hazardous to your financial health.

He thinks to himself, If I were to commit suicide, it wouldn't be by drowning. He finds it difficult to breathe. Salt clings to his forehead, wishing to slide against moisturized skin. The water is green. He continues to imagine spilling algae filled water up his nose, viscous green crawling between eyelids clasped shut. His hair is not wet. He knows that the water can find his heart and squeeze it tightly, a Venus flytrap snapping firmly. He wonders, Would my heart collapse under that pressure? The water is hot. A thick film of steam tints his glasses grey. The poison his woman put in the bath works swiftly; he can no longer see clearly.

His woman hums softly in the kitchen. It is where she belongs. He calls it her place, her special place. Her belly is round and protruding uncomfortably into the stove. With a scream, she looks down to see a white scar bubbling with puss. She pours a glass filled with iced water over her stomach. Her cries of relief do not lower in pitch or intensity from her whimpers of pain. The condensation around her glass sticks to her muddy fingers. Read more in SNReview.