Bad Sourcing, Bad Citing, and Bright Shiny Book Events
Posted by: Keir Graff
Ashes to ashes, pulp to pulp. A forthcoming biography of Madame de Maintenon, Louis XIV’s mistress, written by Veronica Buckley (Christina, Queen of Sweden, 2004) is being recalled due to its reliance on a faulty source (“Hoax diary snares Bloomsbury,” by Claire Armitstead, the Guardian‘s theblogbooks):
The problem, it turns out, is with the attribution of a little-known document Le Journal Secret de Louis XIV. Little known because it was in fact “reconstructed from historical sources” by a mischievous French scholar in 1998.
Prolific University of Florida professor James Twitchell (Branded Nation, 2004; Living It Up, 2002) has admitted to plenty of plagiarism, according to the Gainesville Sun (“UF professor Twitchell admits he plagiarized in several of his books,” by Jack Stripling):
Twitchell initially denied a pattern of plagiarism, but the 64-year-old professor was contrite and ashamed when recently confronted with a larger body of evidence.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure that the words and ideas are my own and, if not, that they are properly credited. In many cases, I have not done this,” Twitchell wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. “I have used the words of others and not properly attributed them. I am always in a hurry to get past descriptions to make my points, a hurry that has now rightly resulted in much shame and embarrassment. I have cheated by using pieces of descriptions written by others.”
And I don’t know why, but this last item seems to fit on this page, too. The hype for James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning is growing (“He’s Back: James Frey Mixes Fact and Fiction, This Time with Art,” by Kate Taylor, The New York Sun), and there’s going to be an expensive art-book companion to the novel, called Wives, Wheels, Weapons. Which makes sense, because he’s not just a writer, he’s an artist.
“Despite the fact that he writes books, he’s much more a part of the art world than the literary world,” Mr. Frey’s friend John McWhinnie said of him.
The sections about L.A. history and culture in “Bright Shiny Morning” are “sprinkled with facts that may or may not be accurate,” Mr. McWhinnie said. “The book opens with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer that nothing in it can be considered true,” he continued. Mr. Frey intentionally mixed true and made-up “facts” — mixing real names of gang members with fake ones, for instance — in order to highlight both the factitiousness of L.A. culture and the ironies in his own authorial past.
Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, the book tour will avoid bookstores and focus on rock clubs, with heavy metal, light shows, and projected images supporting the author. I guess that way, if there are hecklers, it will be much harder to hear them.
Wonder if anyone will shout “Frey Bird!”?