Archive for March, 2010


Saturday, March 13th, 2010

I love the morning paper, at least until something in it drives me nuts and it’s too early to call Charlie in Seattle. The case of “intellectual spousal abuse” was one too many somethings about people who should know better than to use the uncredited ideas of others and think it’s okay.

Something 1:
German teenager, Helene Hegemann, justified using parts of an uncredited work in her bestselling novel by saying that she “mixes and matches…across new and old media to create something new.“ She apologized for not being more open about her sources, but argued, “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” Give me a break. Using is using, and using without crediting is wrong. Her novel has been nominated for the prestigious Leipzig Book Fair prize with a $20,000 award and one juror said that the jury was aware of the plagiarism charges, but said “I believe it’s part of the concept of the book.”

Figure 78.  Mixing and matching

Figure 78. Mixing and matching...

Something 2:

Richard Prince, a “pioneer of Appropriation Art” (I’m not making this up), uses untouched, unacknowledged Marlboro photographs. When interviewed, photographer of the original, Jim Krantz, said, “I’m not…mean or… vindictive,… but I would like some “recognition” and “understanding.” Richard Prince would have none of it. “I never associated advertisements with having an author,” he said in an email. In 2005, one of Richard Prince’s “appropriated” Marlboro pictures sold for $1.2 million.

Something 2:

Something 3:
The author/spouse dies of old age. Then Dr. Harold Seymour is an inaugural inductee into the Society for American Baseball Research’s Hall of Fame because he authored a classic three volume work on the history of baseball, written from 1960-1990. His wife had been a partner in the effort from the beginning, but he never allowed her work to be co-credited with his, even — or maybe especially — when he had Alzheimer’s during the writing of the third volume. It was a time and she loved him. But when the Induction Committee orally acknowledged her assistance, it was not enough. So Dorothy Jane Mills, now 81, came forward and asked for due recognition. After a 48 hour deliberation, The SABR Hall of Fame committee awarded her co-inductee status. Finally.

Figure #79.  ....does make a difference.

Figure #79. ....does make a difference.

Something 4:
Comic book artist, Nick Simmons, declares his likesnesses to another comic an “homage,” never, according to a critical blogger, “flat-out copies.“ His publication has been discontinued.

Something 5.
Author Andre Aciman used the unacknowledged words of others in his novel. The book reviewer liked his writing and praised him accordingly. But the praised quote belonged to John Keats. Thus caught out, the unrepentant author speculated that the unattributed quote was “perhaps unbeknownst to [the] reviewer.” Oh my. Whatever happened to oh, say, quotation marks?

Why is giving credit where credit is due so difficult?


1: Kulish, Nicholas. “Author, 17,Says It’s ‘Mixing,‘ Not Plagiarism.” NYTimes, 2/12/2010.
2. Aciman, Andre. “Letters.” The New Yorker, 3/1/2010.
3.Randy Kennedy. “If The Copy Is An Artwork, Then What Is The Original?” NYTimes, 12/6/07.
4. “Arts Briefly,” NYTimes, 2/10/2010
5. Schwarz, Alan. “Straightening the Record,” NYTimes, 3/6/2010


End of rant.  Time to get on with smells of soggy, but visible grass and old leaves, and the exciting news that the latest Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne may be available.


Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Some mornings are especially fine: good coffee, curious new tracks in the snow, and the NYTimes with a “search” story. Today was one such.

First the story: A lost letter from Rene Descartes was found (NYTimes 2/25/10).   A Descartes scholar in Utrecht (Holland) found it “during a late-night session browsing the Internet [in which] he noticed a reference to Descartes in the description of the manuscript collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.”

Just think about the improbability of such a thing happening. The President of Haverford didn’t know they had it; only one Haverford paper writer, in 1979, had used it; the College received it from the widow of an autograph collector who bought it for the signature, not the content, in 1902; it was just one item in the library’s “special collections,” but the librarians had included it in the online catalog and described it in enough detail for the Utrechtian (?) to have a pretty good idea of the treasure he had found. What on earth was he searching that he landed at Haverford? This is due diligence of an unusual order. If the search limits the sources found and the sources found at least shape the argument and maybe the conclusions, then is it fair to say that I search, therefore I know? (Okay, I was an undergraduate philosophy major.) Do you have to be a librarian, as I am, to be proud of the catalog?

Figure #78.  Can you find this when next you are on foot, in Tenants Harbor, and I hope on your way to or from Roseledge Books?

Figure #78. Can you find this when next you are on foot, in Tenants Harbor, and I hope on your way to or from Roseledge Books?

Another choice detail involves the theft of the letter. Guglielmo Libri stole it and fled to England in 1848 with 30,000 books and manuscripts by Rousseau and other scientific and mathematical giants. The logistics of this theft and transport are staggering. He lived off the proceeds from their sales. This consequential scattering of the treasure makes the searching and finding even more remarkable. I wish it weren’t so, but Count Libri (Can that really be his name?) “served as secretary of the Committee for the General Catalog of Manuscripts in French Public Libraries.” Oh the shame! And the irony. He may have known what manuscripts to steal from their catalog entries, but a later catalog entry saw the return of at least one manuscript to its rightful owner.

An aside: Three great search books are Nicholas Clapp’s The Road to Ubar; Roy Hoxham’s The Great Hedge of India, and William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain.

Then the curious new tracks in the backyard snow: could it be a coyote?
Suburbs north and south of the city are reporting ever more sightings, the Star Tribune (2/28/10) notes. This could be part of the reason I’ve seen no more rabbit tracks. Millie thought Max, the maximum cat, was responsible, but Katie, mother of Max, says that based on vet bills, he’s more likely to take on the coyote.

Finally, the good coffee: I drink an Equal Exchange blend developed by Millie after listening to my complaints: 3 parts Midnight Sun mixed with 1 part Body, Mind and Soul (which sounded way too new-age for me). It is wonderful. Dark, but not bitter, with a bit of a kick. I am trying to get the Equal Exchangers to develop it as a Roseledge Books blend. This should be possible as key EE-er’s are longtime Roseledge people, readers, Charlie’s sort-of cousins, and Millie’s son and daughter-in-law. Some days, life is especially fine.