The Plagiarist's Tale

I've just finished reading an essay in the current New Yorker (Feb 13/20) called The Plagiarist's Tale. It's fascinating for the insight it provides. The plagiarist, Quentin Rowan, a 35-year-old 'outsider' was/is a pathological plagiarist. He wrote a book in the James Bond genre and it was snapped up by a US publisher. The only problem was that he had lifted it all from other works - including other riffs on James Bond novels! When he's interviewed he keeps saying 'I'm addicted', but the psychological consensus is that he is a pathological liar. It turns out he's a regular of AA. 

What's so interesting is the fact that he clearly has an editing gift and a very good memory - as one if the authors whose work he's pilfered says, it takes more effort to put together plagiarised paragraph after plagiarised paragraph than it does to write a damn book yourself! One of the works Rowan took from is by the American novelist, Scott Bradfield, who leads a creative writing module that I used to teach on at Kingston. Other authors whose work he's taken from are leading names. He even had short stories appearing in well known literary magazines. And yet no- one noticed a distinctive line taken from Graham Greene, and so on. It then goes into the whole issue of meta-fiction and the 'nothing is original' anyway. His Mum's reaction (she's a published poet and his Dad is also 'literary' - no clues there then) is laughable. She says finding out her son is a plagiarist is like finding out that one's friend is a pickpocket. Rowan has now secured publication of his memoir - his own work - with a small press. I hope that it does well. If you see a copy of the New Yorker, then I recommend it just for this feature alone. Jonathan Franzen has also written a long piece on 'Angel of Destruction' and snob, Edith Wharton.

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