A Piece of My Mind: Three
Strikes for Writers
Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
~ Sir Water Scott
This has not been a good year for writers in general.
First strike (say what you want -It's Baseball season!), there
was James Frye and his A Million Little Pieces with the issues of
fabrication in journalism and biography. (We don't need to recap that media
darling, do we?).
Second strike, there is The Dan Brown Affair about the suit stating he
plagiarized parts of his novel The DaVinci Code. It is now settled in a British court that his research was research.
Pope is hoping mad about Brown and his Code book and the movie being
released this month, saying the book is anti-Christian and against
church ideals in its meaning and thoughts. The Pope further states that we all
need to boycott the book and the movie. Well Mr. Pope, Sir (I hope that is PC
enough for him), the book been out for almost two years, you took your time
in being mad. Besides if you tell someone DO NOT do it, they will do it just to
show you up.
And now for Strike three
A 19-year-old, first time author Kaavya
Viswanathan's highly publicized novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild
and Got a Life has been pulled from the book shelves, brought down by her
acknowledgment of borrowing from fellow author Megan McCafferty's two
novels, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. Many readers allege that at
least 40 passages "contain identical language and/or common scene or
As I've said before in previous columns, stealing is stealing.
Her so-called borrowing is a crock of horse pucky, I need my hip
boots to wade in her crying "I'm Sorry." I say this, in my opinion,
shouldn't have somebody checked this book more carefully before it hit book
shelves and audio bookstores? Won't this effect many now first-time
authors? How hard will editors be on books now? Will agents be more careful
sending books to editors?
Her publisher Little Brown pulled the first printing run of 100,000 units
before McCafferty's publisher, Crown (a Random House company), could sue
them. Little Brown also had to pull ads, correct their catalogs and eat a
lot of media crow . . . and that costs a lot of money. Maybe enough for
another first-time writer to get their chance. Random House must be smiling
at this news - it's not their books in the negative media
spotlight this time.
So the issue is why do these people do it?
I wish I could answer that
question. We are not talking public domain works either. We aren't talking a
word or a phrase. We are talking about 40 passages of text. One of the best
article regarding this subject matter is from
Sue Raines's articles in the
Fiction Fix's archives.
I won't reprint a word here,Sue... I promise!
However Miss Viswanathan is not the first nor will she be the last. Alex
Hailey did it for his best seller Roots. Jacob Epstein acknowledged
plagiarizing Martin Amis' The Rachel Papers for his debut novel, Wild
Oats. Doris Kearns Goodwin did it in writing The Fitzgeralds and the
Kennedys, she took text from author Lynne McTaggart
Well in my schedule this month is the
Book Expo America
in the DC convention Center (Yea, Home team advantage for once!...I can
sleep in my own bed this year!). The dates are May 19-21. I bet these three
issues and many others will be a hot topic for discussion on the convention
floor. I can't wait to hear what the industry people say. And I hope to meet
a few readers of this column, as I did last year in New York
In regards to what people say, I would enjoy hearing your opinion on the
subject matter of this column or any other issues regarding writing in
general. Drop me a line. My email address (REMEMBER-No attachments please)
is [email protected],
So, until next time keep reaching for the stars!
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About the Writer:
Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in
175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and
reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery
Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and
many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN
Forum. View his web site at