HOW WRITERS WILL STEAL YOUR LIFE AND USE IT FOR FICTION A BRIEF HISTORY OF PLAGIARIZING IDENTITY, FROM LEO TOLSTOY TO SALMAN RUSHDIE

plagiarismPlagiarism in many instances should be shunned and punished; at the same time, it has been at the heart of cultural life for centuries, bringing much good and much pleasure. The great plagiarists have committed no crime. And there is the “added value” argument, which many find persuasive. But there is a further question to raise, and in many ways it is the most interesting.

The word plagiarism comes from the Latin for kidnapping, literally “going out with a net.” It was used first in something like its modern sense in AD 1 by the Roman poet Martial. A plagiarius was, in his view, someone who stole someone else’s slave or enslaved a free person. In epigram No. 32, he applies the term metaphorically to another poet, whom he accuses of having claimed authorship of verses Martial had written. Later, in epigram No. 53, he uses not plagiarius but the word for thief (fur) to apply to someone whom we would call a plagiarist. As Martial was to put it, a plagiarist doesn’t just steal a person’s body; he kidnaps his person, her inner life.

This develops into an altogether different literary theft. For both the memoirist and the novelist are inevitably inspired by the people they have met, and will make use of them to suit their purposes. This may not strictly be plagiarism, but it is similar territory. “Writing is an act of thievery,” admits Khalid Hosseini, author of the autobiographical novel The Kite Runner. “You adapt experiences and anecdotes for your own purposes.” John Cheever put it more gently: “Fiction is a force of memory improperly understood.”

 

Both the memoirist and the novelist are inevitably inspired by the people they have met, and will make use of them to suit their purposes.

 

It can also cut close to nonfiction, and the lines of demarcation become blurred. In a recent essay, Alexander Stille, himself a memoirist, has written: “Within this kind of work there is inherent conflict. The characters in a memoir are not real people, but inevitably feed on the blood of the living like vampires. And so it is entirely natural for those real people to defend their identities as if they were fighting for their lives.”

Such “kidnappings” can cause as much pain as, if not more than, someone whose work is plagiarized may feel. During the mid-1960s, Michael Holroyd was researching his two-volume biography of Lytton Strachey when he took time out to complete a short novel, his first and, as it turned out, his only. “It would be some fifty thousand words long and cover the happenings of a family over twenty-four hours,” wrote Holroyd many years later. The book was accepted for publication by Heinemann in Britain and by Holt, Rinehart in the United States. “During the long wait for publication I had given the typescript to my father to read—and he was horrified. For him the book was not a novel at all but a hostile caricature of the family. ‘You go out of your way to avoid any redeeming features in anyone’s characters,’ he wrote. . . . ‘The formula is evident. Take the weakest side of each character—the skeleton in every cupboard—& magnify these out of proportion so as they appear to become the whole and not only part of the picture. Please understand the whole family are together in their dislike of this distorted picture you have drawn of them.’”

The family had not in fact read the book, but Holroyd’s father’s reaction was enough. In a special introduction to the novel, finally reissued in 2014 after years out of print, Holroyd explains how he in turn felt. “I was nonplussed by this awful reaction. I had borrowed certain traits, gestures, tricks of speech and various mannerisms from members of the family, but had fixed them on to characters with very different careers and past lives.”

Whatever his son’s motives, Holroyd the father was determined to stop publication. There may have been breaches of trust, but none of copyright, and certainly no plagiarism of an actionable kind, so instead he threatened to sue for libel. In Britain, where libel laws are strict, Heinemann was concerned, but Holroyd was aghast. “The intensity of his grief and anger . . . shocked me. So I withdrew the novel and returned my advance.” Holt, however, having taken legal advice, went ahead, and the book was published in the United States in 1969. “No copies reached my family and I was able to help my father, who was sliding towards bankruptcy, with my advance.”

Something very different happened over the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children. When his father first read the book, in 1980, he was convinced that Ahmed Sinai, the novel’s drunken patriarch, was a satirical portrait based on him. He was furious. Salman Rushdie did not deny that the character was a fictionalized version of his parent—“In my young, pissed-off way,” he later explained, “I responded that I’d left all the nasty stuff out”—but he objected to his father’s wounded reaction, which he thought betrayed a crude understanding of how novels worked. “My father had studied literature at Cambridge so I expected him to have a sophisticated response to the book.” But in Rushdie’s case he never rescinded his “kidnapping.”

This making use of—even making off with—someone else’s life seems to me to be what a plagiarius does. But it is, simply, what writers do. In an endnote essay in The New York Times Book Review the novelist and playwright Roger Rosenblatt put this well:

For the wolf of a writer, the family is a crowd of sitting ducks. There they assemble at the Thanksgiving table, poor dears—blithering uncles, drugged-out siblings, warring couples—posing for a painting, though they do not know it.

The objects of a writer’s scrutiny may be entirely blameless, but the writer will infuse his family with whatever characteristics suit his purpose, because “defects make for better reading than virtues.”

Literature is littered with stories of how novelists have taken the lives of people they have met and used them for their fictions. The family is just the nearest ammunition to hand. Friends and enemies, lovers and ex-lovers, all are grist to the artist’s mill. The celebrated society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938) was the inspiration for Mrs. Bidlake in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, for Hermione Roddice in D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, for Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene’s It’s a Battlefield, and for Lady Sybilline Quarrell in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On. (In the first two instances at least, she felt betrayed by authors she regarded as friends.) Zelda Fitzgerald complained of her husband that in The Beautiful and Damned she could “recognize a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which sound vaguely familiar. Mr. Fitzgerald seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.” A novelist I edited wrote of a main character whose father had murdered her mother—a situation taken from real life by the novelist from the pillow talk of a onetime lover, whose own family had experienced exactly that tragedy. Only when the book was in proof did he show it to her, and she was outraged. Chastened, he rewrote the novel. Many writers do not behave as well—or, if they do, not as late.

In 1872 a neighbor of Tolstoy’s cast off his mistress, Anna Pirogova. The railroad had recently been extended into the province, and in her despair Anna rushed down to the tracks and threw herself under a train. The corpse was taken to a nearby engine shed, and Tolstoy, hearing of the tragedy, rode over to view the remains, even though he had never known the woman. We do not object when we learn that he used Anna Pirogova as the inspiration for Anna Karenina, or when an otherwise anonymous Madame Delphine Delamare, after numerous adulteries as the wife of an inattentive country doctor, in 1850 poisons herself and becomes the model for Emma Bovary. When, in The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann, for his portrait of Mynheer Peeperkorn, borrowed some of the features of Gerhart Hauptmann, at that time Germany’s foremost dramatist, a scandal ensued, and Mann was forced to appeal to Hauptmann directly: “I have sinned against you. I was in need, was led into temptation, and yielded to it. The need was artistic.” And there the matter rested. These are just three examples, when in truth hardly any imaginative writer doesn’t borrow from people they know. Even so, when the instances come closer to home, we may justifiably feel that our person has been kidnapped.*

Most writers acknowledge the destructive, even self-destructive element in their chosen profession. “As a younger man,” admitted Peter Carey, “if anything was worth stealing I would steal it.” Whether it is in fiction or nonfiction, most writers take that “right” for granted. “The novelist destroys the house of his life and uses its stones to build the house of his novel,” Milan Kundera wrote in Art of the Novel, not as apology but as a description of the way things are.

 

Most writers acknowledge the destructive, even
self-destructive element in their chosen profession.

 

John Updike confessed that fiction is “a dirty business.” His art had “a shabby side. . . . The artist who works in words and anecdotes, images and facts wants to share with us nothing less than his digested life.” In his book Self-Consciousness, he exempts himself from “normal intra-familial courtesy,” adding that “the nearer and dearer they are the more mercilessly they are served up.” Interviewed for a 1982 TV documentary, he bluntly states: “My duty as a writer is to make the best record I can of life as I understand it, and that duty takes precedence for me over all these other considerations.” After Updike and his first wife told their children they planned to divorce, he composed a story about the episode (“Separating”) a mere two weeks later, a “way of hiding,” he put it in a 1968 interview, “of too instantly transforming pain into honey.”

The Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose six-part memoir/novel My Struggle is extremely revealing about his close relatives, has said that the question of whether a writer ought to use his family as material is like asking: Would you save the cat or the Rembrandt from a burning house? His answer is that we must save the cat, choosing life over art—but he portrays his own family in intimate, hurtful detail.

Graham Greene has famously written about the “ice chip in the heart” that allows novelists to plagiarize the lives of friends—an image he took from Hans Anderson’s The Snow Queen, in which a sliver of glass from a shattered magic mirror lodges in the heart of a young boy, Kai. For Greene, that chip of ice is essential equipment. Nearly all writers have to ask whether they possess such a splinter, and to what degree.

 

* This leaves plenty of room for error. Around 1999, a woman librarian brought a case against Joe Klein and Random House since she believed that she was the model for a character who has an affair with the Clintonesque presidential candidate in Klein’s Primary Colors and was thus defamed. It was said that the woman cited as evidence the description of her character’s shapely legs in the novel being an exact description of her own. In fact, Klein had used as inspiration the legs of his literary agent, Kathy Robbins (my wife). When Kathy was required to make a formal deposition, she made sure she wore a short skirt and high heels. The claim duly failed, a New York court ruling that a depiction “must be so closely akin” to the real person claiming to be defamed that “a reader of the book, knowing the real person, would have no difficulty linking the two.”

In an extreme case, David Graham Phillips, early hailed by H. L. Mencken as “the leading American novelist” of his day, was fatally shot in 1911 by a man overcome by rage at what he believed was the depiction of his family in one of Phillips’s fictions. The author, on his way to the hospital, said that he had no knowledge of his assailant or his family. See Peter Duffy, “Character Assassination,” The New York Times Book Review, January 16, 2011, p. 23.

By Richard Cohen, Via Random House

Romanticism and Rock

Love this guy! Good luck Jason. My favourite period.

James Rovira

I’m thinking about developing a course about Rock and Roll and Romanticism for the Spring 2016 semester, so I asked my colleagues on the NASSR list for music recommendations that pair well with Romantic-era poetry and prose. They responded generously with numerous suggestions both for pairings between rock and roll and Romantic texts and for the course in general. I’ve posted a list below.

Why rock and roll and Romanticism? “Romanticism” as a literary movement has traditionally been defined both thematically and as a period, with periodization usually taking priority. As a periodized trans-European phenomenon, Romanticism starts with either Rousseau’s writings of the 1760s-1780s, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774, or the fall of the Bastille in 1789, and it lasts until about 1850, at least in England. By this date Wordsworth, Mary Shelly, and most other first and second-generation Romantic poets had died.

Thematically, Romantic literature tends…

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Need a Proofreader? We Are Here For You!

Editing and Proofreading Agency is exactly what you need in order to make your papers, speeches, official writing look and sound professional and accurate.

TO FUTURE CLIENTS:

To my knowledge the market is not really packed with proofreaders. And, yet, it is craving for ones. Recently I have had the opportunity to proofread some conference papers. It was a demanding work, for sure, as you need to be focused on both the content and the language if you wish to be professional. I can only imagine how demanding it might be for those of you who are struggling with the English, whatever the occasion you are writing for may be., Not only do you have to be content itself. There is the language: the grammar, the spelling, let alone the reading or speaking about the paper. Especially when the conferences,meetings, seminars are in question.Should I mention the presentations? Better not. I am sure how burdening it can be, especially if you are burdened by other duties and commitments.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR BOTH A CLIENT AND A PROOFREADER!

This revelation helped me to come up with an idea to create an “Online Editing and Proofreading Agency”, hoping that the clients who need to have their papers proofread and are pressed with time, can hire a professional proofreader to do the job for them. On the other hand the proofreader benefits not just financially but professionally as well, by getting a chance to expand on the ESP vocabulary, improving and keep developing their language skills, as well.What  is more, learn the skill of proofreading. I will not take up this opportunity to write about this professional aspect. I am just inviting to visit out site and get to know us.

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Editing and Proofreading Team

Sleep well, B.B. King

R.I.P

James Rovira

I was lucky enough to see B.B. King in Morristown, NJ in the early 2000s, sometime before 2004. Yes, it was a great show, and he was a great performer and guitarist, but what impressed me the most at the time was that whatever he’d been all his life (I just don’t know), he’d become a gentleman in all of the best senses of the word. He seemed to me like someone to emulate. We lost a truly great person today. Sleep well, B.B. King.

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This Father’s Response To School About Kids’ Absence Is The Best Reply Ever

Dear Madam Principle,what would thy response be?

This month, Mike Rossi, a Philadelphia father, pulled his two kids out of school for a couple days so they could watch him run the Boston Marathon. The school had different thoughts though. They called it an “inexcusable absence,” apparently thinking that they get to have the final say in family vacations. Above is picture of the letter they received.

b550n-rossi-possi-2

Naturally, Mike had some things to say. This was his response:

Dear Madam Principal,

While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school.

Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.

In the 3 days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education.

They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.

They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal.

At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes run in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world.

They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit.

These are things they won’t ever truly learn in the classroom.

In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game.

They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming.

We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school.

But I wouldn’t hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week.
Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Michael Rossi

Father

via higher perspective

Can we define scientifically a “Desired Classroom Discipline” ? ( If yes, how? )

download (3)Just a few hours ago, while surfing through the LinkedIn, I came across, in one of the groups, the above typed headline. I found it an eye-catching and interesting so I decided to open the page and hopefully read the post as it is one of the topics that bothers most of the teachers, if not all of them. To my surprise, as I opened it I found a blank page. To make the things worse I posted I comment indicating laughter. Soon after I got a reply: ” Is that your answer?……..hahhahahah”. Only then did I realize that the question was posted by a young teacher, who has, in my opinion recently started to work as a teacher and found himself in a classroom full of students lacking basic manners and behavior. I tried to apologize trying to explain that I wasn’t laughing at him but at myself. To be precise, since I was a child I have always had the need to open up things and look what’s inside. My mother would ask me: “Why did you do that?” and I would answer:”To see what’s inside.”Apparently, the character trait stayed with me for the next 45 years. As a consequence, I paid the cost of it by getting the feedback that resonated with desperation and disappointment. So there is no excuse for what I had done.

The question was posted twice, 27 days ago. To my astonishment, the young man did not get a single answer. So, although it’s 2.45 am, and it’s raining, with the fresh air coming through my window, feeling the coldness of the night, and exchanging the thoughts with Thiago Veigga , I decided to give the issue some thought and do some research.

When I look back into the past when I was a student, I can’t recall that anyone ever taught us anything about ‘the scientific definition of the desired classroom discipline’. When I started my career, I asked the colleagues the same question. The only answer I got was: “It all depends on you!” End of story. Of course I didn’t understand what they meant by it. All I know is that is took me about 17 years of experience to learn how to develop the skill of managing the classroom, keeping a nice and relaxed atmosphere, still maintaining the position of a teacher first, then a partner and finally a friend. So, my dear young man, Mahdi Najar, again accept my apology and take my advice:

1. Think of what kind of relationship and atmosphere you want to create in the classroom.

2. Try to engage the students as much as you can through a variety of activities. Diana Larsen Freeman is a good source for teaching techniques and principles. Also, there are loads of websites and blogs where you can find wonderful teaching material.

3. Try to avoid any conflicting situations with the students or parents. If you find yourself in some of them, you should better turn to professionals or even school principal for help. The system worldwide is supporting the students rather than protecting the teacher. So, be careful.

4. And finally, keep in mind that you are also a human being primarily and then a teacher, yet do your best to be a pro.

As for the scientific definitions of the classroom management, here are some links that you can refer to for starters:

1. The Classroom Management according to wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classroom_management

2. Effective Classroom management

http://www.adprima.com/managing.htm

3. Ten Tips for Classroom Management

http://www.edutopia.org/classroom-management-resource-guide

So, that would be all from me for now. If anybody else has something to add and help the young man, please do so. We need to help each other and be humane.

Nada Radenkovic

Why Educators Have to Blog

Educators are quick to tell students about the benefits of blogging, but slow to embrace them personally. Part of this is simply the immense work load educators take on these days but part of it is also the rut in which many educators find themselves in regards to approaching their work – and their students. Many educators understand that blogging can help nurture relationships with fellow education professionals and reach out to students academically but too many think the benefits stop there.
 
Blogging – Why It Matters to Educators?
Educators have always come together to exchange ideas, learn about new approaches in education and, of course, to simply vent their frustrations.  While this has traditionally been done through user groups, informal social networks and both online and print journals, blogging has added a new element as well as new responsibilities. 
First, blogging forces educators to return to their roots by organizing their thoughts in order to write and post their opinions, observations and findings.  Returning to the basics this way helps professionals organize their thoughts more effectively and puts them in a better position to help students who struggle with some of the same issues.  An educator who blogs regularly can help students more effectively when it comes to organizing their essay structure, finding reliable resources and simply making the time to sit down and write. 
Blogging has become the best and most effective way to share and discuss new approaches in education and how to meet the challenges of the 21st Century classroom.  For some students that means finding the ways to draw their attention back to education (and away from Angry Birds) while for others it means finding ways to integrate personal electronics, social media and memes into their curriculum.
Reaching Out to Students 
Students today are much more relaxed, confident and at home when sitting behind a keyboard.  The same student who never says a word in class can prove to be the voice of a generation once they get home and are settled in behind their laptop, keyboard or tablet.  Involving students in blogging not only encourages them to open up and respond to posts, it also gives them more insight into your own methods and the  world of education in general.  
Students who have a clearer idea of why teachers do the things they do are more likely 
to have mature and motivated attitude to the education. They get the opportunity to see the things from an entirely different perspective and helps them to understand why education is important for their skills development and future opportunities. Teachers thus turn from ‘enemies’ and ‘punishers’ into mature friends, advisors, people who have experience and can be referred to with questions. 
Finally, it reinforces the idea that education isn’t just a phase in someone’s life – it’s a lifelong journey. Once they see that educators and professionals from every industry turn to blogging in order to connect with each other and encourage innovation, they’ll see the skills you’re trying so hard to teach them really do have a place outside your classroom.
Best Practices of Education Blogging
Of course, finding the right blog is all about knowing your audience and so teachers wrangling little kids will have different needs from those trying to help university students.  But no matter where you fall on the academic spectrum, there’s a blog for you. 
With cute colors and bubbly graphics, it’s clear the Chalk Talk team is dedicated to their smaller students. But don’t let their cutie-pie approach throw you off – these teachers are serious about education and the content drives that home. Recent posts have focused on heavy topics like phonological awareness and how to encourage writing skills in preschool children.  
Essay Universe 
 a site on academic writing created by college university instructor Tracy Collins. The author aims to provide students with tips, hints and guides to help them hone their writing skills and fall in love with writing process. She researches different methods of teaching writing and plans to share them with her colleagues and students in interactive way. 
Elementary age students need the right foundation in order to excel as they get older and blogs such as 4 the Love of Teaching combine observation with research to tell other educators about new classroom techniques, age appropriate books and even products and tricks teachers can use to stretch their supplies and budget without going broke … or insane.
As kids approach middle school the challenges can increase with attention grabbing devices adding to the traditional mix of after-school activities and surging hormones making it difficult for kids to focus in class.  The 2 Peas and a Dog blog focuses on this crucial age to help educators find ways to cut through the noise and distractions and reach students.  It also offers a pretty comprehensive listing of related blogs for students from kindergarten through high school.
 Blogger Krystal Mills offers up plenty of help when it comes to technology and education.  While her focus is on middle school students, the issues she raises can easily translate to lower high school students, particularly freshman who often feel as though they have one foot in middle school and the other in high school.
If ever there was an academic phase that embraces insanity, it’s high school.  he students are more diverse and so are is the pressure on teachers.  Education is a central topic on this blog but the focus is also on arming students with skills they’ll need throughout their academic career and checking out new technologies that can help students and educators alike.
Run as a part of the Inside Higher Ed website, the University of Venus encompasses a wealth of ideas and theories when it comes to education.  It’s the perfect blog for teachers who want to expand their own techniques and find ways to deal with the politics of education within their curriculum.  It offers practical advice such as dealing with student assessments as well as serious issues that affect educators directly such as the recent adjunct crisis.
 The Thinking Stick offers a bit of everything and appeals to educators at every level.  If you’re teaching little kids, posts on clever ways to use Google Maps in the classroom can turn a simple geography lesson into something more engaging.  Teachers educating older students will find plenty of help with reading strategies in the digital age.  
Writer Lisa Nielsen covers everything from how to incorporate social media in the classroom to how best to set up a classroom in order to help students pay attention and learn more effectively.  Her approach is simple and clear-cut making her blog easy to read, search and put into practice. 
Following the best practice of educational blogging will help any teacher built stronger relations with their students and fellow educators and make valuable input into education development. Who knows – maybe soon we won’t use any textbooks and blogging will be the only source of relevant information.
via:  educators technology