Monday, August 15, 2005

But I Didn't Really MEAN to Plagiarize

I'm oddly piqued by recent news that Bloomsbury is canceling paperback release of Judith Kelly's memoir ROCK ME GENTLY, for numerous plagiarized passages. She supposedly has a photographic memory, and accidentally copied full passages from her brain's database, originally penned by, among others, Charlotte Bronte and Graham Greene.

Here are some shocking examples.

What if she's telling the truth? Bloomsbury made the right choice, but I for one see how it could happen. Ever try to hum an original tune? It's hard, if you have a memory for music. I'm just glad I have no memory for text...


Blogger girlbomb said...

Damn, whether she meant to do it or not, she sure is busted.

Thank god for my lack of short-term...what were we talking about again?

9:27 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

I know. Especially the dialogue she swiped from Greene...did her memory of experiences get mixed up with her memory of reading?

7:19 PM  
Blogger WittyName32 said...

Hi, Anne. Here's a great essay on plagiarism, an article by Malcolm Gladwell that originally ran in the New Yorker. Gladwell's quite the contrarian, but even here I find his point fascinating: that we should let up on the plagiarism prosecutions.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

S, thanks for the link.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Judith Kelly said...

I don't have a photographic memory, but I easily retain bits I have read in books. For instance, when reading through my first manuscript, I noticed so many quotes from Shakespeare: balm of hurt minds (Macbeth) an inhuman wretch incapable of pity (Merchant of Venice) and many others.

I kept a diary as a child when in the convent upon which I based my story. The facts contained in that diary prove that my story is true.

The similarities to other authors were genuine mistakes. It took me seven years to write my book, which totals 93,000 words and the resemblance to other authors is minimal in comparison to the remainder of my story.

I learnt to write by reading as many good books as possible. I learnt how other people used words, told stories, the turns of phrases they use. I learnt slowly by a process of imitation and all the while taking the facts of my story from my childhood diary and making copious notes. That's where I came unstuck, I forgot which words belonged to other authors and those that were mine.

In The Times article I mentioned that I was a fool, but I had in mind Winston Churchill's words: The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.

Judith Kelly

9:09 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Thanks so much for chiming in with your side of the story. This must have been a harrowing discovery for you. I, for one, don't have any reason to think you're lying.

Since I posted this, I've had similar experiences (though WAY less public) as I've reread some fiction (by others) I hadn't looked at in awhile. Here and there I notice things that I have since unconsciously "stolen" in my own work. Character names, scenes, plots. It's a little frightening what the brain can do with all the information in there.

10:30 AM  

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