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Tuesday, February 5, 2008 3:00 pm
Were Wallace Stegner’s words borrowed or stolen?
Posted by: Keir Graff

In the Los Angeles Times (“A classic, or a fraud?“), Philip L. Fradkin keeps alive the ghost of Wallace Stegner’s sins, reexamining the curious case of Angle of Repose. Fradkin borrows from–but doesn’t plagiarize–Jonathan Lethem. (Although he plagiarizes other writers. Read it, you’ll see what I mean. LethemĀ did itĀ better.)

Criticism of Stegner’s use of Foote’s material has circulated mainly among academics and some feminists and has gone largely unnoticed by the public, even though a magazine article in this newspaper drew attention to the issue five years ago. Whether Stegner was guilty of plagiarism and slander, as his harshest critics maintain, the complexity of the act has never been completely explored.

It’s important to remember that Stegner had permission to use the material and that he acknowledged its use, sort of. There were extenuating circumstances. As is often the case in life, it is the gray areas that predominate and are most interesting.

For another Stegner-related controversy, click here.

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