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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Friday, July 17, 2009 3:39 pm
What I Haven’t Been Writing About
Posted by: Keir Graff

I have been swamped–SWAMPED–the past few weeks, editing newsletters, mining data, writing reviews, and preparing for and attending Annual Conference. I say that not to complain but to account for my near-absence from both the blogosphere and the twitterdome. This absence pains me, because the news has been full of my kind of blogfodder. As I am an inveterate link-hoarder, I am able to provide you with specific examples.

Authors vs. Critics

Alice Hoffman proved why authors still need editors, as she was unable to restrain herself from lashing out at reviewer Roberta Silman–and even going so far as to share Silman’s phone number and e-mail address, urging her fans to “Tell her what u think of snarky critics.” Yes, but what about snarky authors? In Salon, “Hey, authors, don’t tweet in anger!” Mary Elizabeth Williams rehashes some classic author-critic feuds–great stuff!–and here’s the kicker:

Richard Ford had to wait two years after Colson Whitehead’s negative New York Times review of 2002 novel “A Multitude of Sins” to spit on the him at a Poets & Writers party. But that’s peanuts compared to what happened to another of Ford’s critics. After a less than stellar write-up of his 1986 novel “The Sportswriter” appeared in the New York Times, Ford’s wife took a pistol to a book the reviewer had written and blew a hole right through it. Ford later did the same honors with another copy of the same book.

Chilling though the message was, it didn’t stop the critic from continuing to dole out opinions. Her name? Alice Hoffman.

Writing in Canada’s National Post, Stephen Marche finds the bright side in all of this–thanks to Twitter, we may be entering a new golden age of author-critic feuds (“Is Twitter ushering in an era of raging critic-author feuds?“). (Find me on Twitter.)

Plagiarism

In the Virginia Quarterly Review’s blog, the excellently monikered Waldo Jaquith noted that Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson, the author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price, apparently took his own ideas so seriously that he appropriated the prose of others for–you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?–free! Anderson’s convoluted response included this:

I should have had a better process to make sure the write-through covered all the text that was not directly sourced.

Which, if I’m reading it correctly, means that he should have scrambled the words of the stuff he cut-and-pasted so that no one would have been able to run the purloined prose through a search engine. But perhaps I’m misunderstanding him.

In related news, Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View has been sued over alleged plagiarism in her best-selling diet book (“TV’s Hasselbeck accused of plagiarizing diet book,” Reuters):

Cape Cod author Susan Hassett filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Hasselbeck in Massachusetts federal court this week, saying parts of the book, “The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide,” were lifted from a book Hassett had written on the same subject. . . .

Hassett claims she mailed Hasselbeck a copy of her self-published book, “Living with Celiac Disease,” in April 2008 because she wanted to help Hasselbeck spread awareness on her television show about the condition, which involves an intolerance to gluten, a component of wheat, rye and barley.

I can’t speak to the facts of this case, but if Hasselbeck is guilty, then she’s certainly a gluten for punishment.

Sorry.

Maybe she can form a support group with Jessica Seinfeld?

Newsweek‘s Russ Juskalian investigates cryptomnesia (unconscious copying) in an effort to discover whether, as so many plagiarists assert, it’s possible to lift entire passages of someone else’s work entirely by accident (“You Didn’t Plagiarize, Your Unconscious Did“). Unconscious plagiarism does exist, but writers who don’t take proactive steps to avoid it are often either being lazy, or they have a diminished fear of being caught. Whoops–I just lifted that last sentence from Juskalian verbatim!

Sex, Sex, Sex

Wallace Shawn likes writing about sex, damn it (“Shock to the System,” The Guardian).

And so does Leonora Rustamova, an English English teacher, who self-published a racy novel, called Stop! Don’t Read This, about her students in an effort to get them to read (“Teacher’s racy novel ‘to encourage pupils to read’,” Independent). According to Rustamova, the students made her do it–and the fact that it was published online was due to “a simple internet mistake.” One 17-year-old student gave the book a strong review, calling it “excellent,” although Rustamova admitted that her first effort, The Woodland Massacre, caused its intended audience to be “offended.”

Borders UK has a dating service.

Playboy acquired first serial rights to Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura–sight unseen–after the New Yorker turned it down (“Holy Lolita! Hefner Hoovers Up First Serial Rights to Nabokov’s Last Novella,” by Leon Neyfakh, New York Observer). There must be the makings of a Playboy party joke in there somewhere.

Aspiring screenwriters can pretty much forget about breaking in to the porno biz (“Lights, Camera, Lots of Action. Forget the Script.” by Matt Richtel, New York Times). I’ve read time and time again that, where pornography goes, so goes the country–does this mean mainstream feature films will follow behind?

And with that, I’m off for a week of working vacation. I’ll be at home, writing, but not for Booklist. Mostly. And I’ll be saving links.

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