Saturday, November 26, 2011

"How many ways can you say that Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809?" — Jay Parini

"American author Lenore Hart has rejected accusations of plagiarism on Facebook, after allegations she used material from a 55-year-old book by Cothburn O'Neal in writing her fictionalised life of Edgar Allan Poe's cousin and wife, The Raven's Bride.
     Both Hart's novel, published this year, and O'Neal's The Very Young Mrs Poe, published in 1956, tell the story of Virginia Clemm, who married her cousin Poe when she was just 13 years old. Hart's is told in the first person, while O'Neal, who died in 2001, writes in the third person. A host of similarities between the two books have been alleged online, with the charge led by the spy novelist Jeremy Duns – who called this case 'absolutely shocking' – and by the blog The World of Edgar Allan Poe. [...]
     Asking if TS Eliot could have written The Waste Land 'if he worried about quoting without attribution,' [Jay] Parini said that 'the problem with historical fiction, of course, is that history is full of nuggets of knowledge. How many ways can you say that Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809? If you're describing a certain river, the descriptions of that river will often sound like other descriptions of that river, and so forth. And it's important to remember that literature is a tissue of allusion. We all participate in the language, its writing and thinking; we do so unconsciously more than consciously. It's hard to find a sentence that hasn't been written by someone, somewhere: Isn't that a point made by Borges over and over?' [...]

     Bella Pagan, senior commissioning editor at Tor UK, Pan Macmillan, said that books receive 'a huge degree of scrutiny' before they are published. 'Commissioning editors will have read widely and deeply in their field, and are likely to spot it if something comes up which has been done before,' she said. 'But we can't possibly police everything, and we need to be very vigilant.' Although Pagan does not believe plagiarism has become more rife, she says it is more likely to be uncovered these days. 'Bloggers can police as much as anyone,' she said. 'I don't think there is more plagiarism than there has been historically, but it is probably easier to discover, and easier to publicise.'" — Alison Flood, Guardian

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