What is wrong with these people?

Jonah Lehrer, riding high, invents a quote from Bob Dylan and expects it to pass. Why? Especially when Bob Dylan’s relatively few words, often cryptic and/or mumbled, are so much considered. Jonah Lehrer hasn’t said. Maybe he searched and couldn’t find the quote and, based on other Dylan quotes, he was sure it, or words to its effect existed and he needed the quote to make his point. Okay, so document your search, list pertinent other Dylan quotes, or change your point, but don’t cheat. It clearly indicates insufficient search skills (said the librarian) or terminal dumbness.


There is nothing as real as a memory confirmed, day after day.

Remember Joe McGinniss in The Last Brother, his biography of Ted Kennedy? He invented speeches but, as I recall (all the search I‘m willing to do), argued that by the time he finished writing the book, he knew the speakers well enough to know what they would have said.

And Edmund Morris in Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan invented a narrator/author because (as I recall he argued in an op/ed piece reprinted in, maybe, the Star Tribune, but which I can‘t verify without access to licensed databases which I do not have) he needed it, as, regarding former President Reagan, either there was a there there and he couldn’t find it or there was no there there. But as a scholar and generous man, he added that probably it was there and he could not find it. I may be letter-wrong on his words, but I think the spirit is right.

Then Jonah Lehrer reused his own words without change. Good grief! Telling the same story twice is surely a definition of getting old. Thinking the same story is better the second time is a big-time dotage alert.

Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism is especially hard to understand because he copied from a recent essay by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker which was bound to have been read by many of his readers. So why not cite it and add why he admired it? He also gave two commencement addresses which were much alike. What is wrong with these guys?


Varied rocks together make great stone walls; always worth a walker's search.

Search tactics are always worth citing, if only to lend credibility to one’s conclusions. I love books that depend upon the search to exist, especially if the reader is let in on the process. This summer’s best example, so far, is Charles Cumming’s Trinity Six, a novel in which he wonders if, in addition to the Cambridge Five, there was a sixth spy. The author plans the search as follows:

“Paul, I’m not an investigative journalist. I’m an archive man.”
“What’s the difference? You interview people, don’t you? You can follow a trail from A to B. You know how to use a telephone, the Internet, a public library? How hard can it be? ( p.39)
“…Historians specialize in the dead….[Sam Gaddis] was a specialist in reconstruction. He knew how to piece together the fragments of a stranger’s existence, to work through an archive, to pan the stream of history to reveal a nugget of priceless information.” ( p.56)

Already after eighty pages of Nicholas Kilmer’s A Paradise for Fools, the library reference exchanges are worth the book. A late summer search favorite may be emerging.

The Produce Lady is, yet again, my hero. She did whatever it took to get blueberries when everyone else was out. Spooky sky today; wiggly cloud ends hanging down look ominous to a Midwesterner, but the sun is out now, so porch event is still on. A week from tomorrow is back to Minnesota. Always hard.

This entry was posted in General Discussion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *