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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Defense

To the Editor:We, as writers and friends of literature, wish to register our concern in regard to “Author Fights Plagiarism Charges by Critic” (news article, Oct. 8). The Timesby giving a large platform to a small offense, has tainted the reputation of this accomplished editor, poet and memoirist.
It is important for your readers to understand that the charges brought against Jill Bialosky by the critic William Logan refer to a handful of commonly known biographical facts gleaned from outside sources. Given the trust that is assumed between a writer and her readers, this mishandling is not something to shrug off. Yet it bears saying that Ms. Bialosky’s inadvertent repetition of biographical boilerplate was not an egregious theft intentionally performed.
All 72 of us stand with Ms. Bialosky and her statement of apology. She is working with the publisher on adjustments to the text, which will appear in future editions of the book. It would be a terrible disservice to Ms. Bialosky and to your readers if the article kept people from appreciating her substantial contributions to American letters.
The writers are authors whose works have been edited by Jill Bialosky. The letter had 70 other signers, including Jennifer Egan, Louise Glück, Amy Hempel, Claire Messud, Robert Pinsky and Roxanne Robinson.

The Times has not tainted her reputation: she has done that to herself by plagiarism and by the low quality of her writing. By implication, a "large platform for a small offense" would preclude the Times from reporting on any such "small offense," since the Times is a big newspaper. It is also simply not true that all the plagiarism here is biographical in nature. Five of the eight instances of plagiarism found by Logan are biographical, three are not.

The idea that there would be future editions of such a miserable book is laughable.

Another thing: there are 52 poems, and 222 pages, so each poem gets four pages or so, and many of the entries are very short. There are 8 cases, and another 5 or so that Logan didn't mention, so let's say 12 total, in entries for nearly a quarter of all the poems, I'm guessing. I've already shown that a good deal of the commentary on "Richard Cory" is borrowed from wikipedia. I'm sure the memoir part (her descriptions of her actual experiences) is original, but then it seems that she grafted that unto "boilerplate" material from wikipedia and the Academy of American Poets.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm always convinced I am too much under the influence of other peoples' phrasing, but that's for complex theoretical concepts. When I wrote a textbook chapter I had to have little basic introductions to different writers & texts, and despite the standardness of some of the information it was truly not difficult not to plagiarize.

Anonymous said...

Also: they seem to be saying it's OK because she is well known. I would think the opposite.