Cassie Edwards: Remarkable Similarities to Pulitzer-Winning Novel, Laughing Boy

Part of a series: Cassie Edwards 1: The First Post | Cassie Edwards 2: Savage Longings | Cassie Edwards Part 3: Running Fox | Cassie Edwards Part 4: Savage Moon | Cassie Edwards Part 5: Savage Beloved | Follow-up: Penguin (Part 1?) | Official Statement from Signet | AP Article Contains Response from Edwards  | RWA Responds to Allegations  | A centralized document for the Cassie Edwards situation | Updated Statement from Signet | The NY Times Art Section Story | Cassie Edwards: Remarkable Similarities to Laughing Boy


Update! Thanks to Raj and Gemma, I now have included more complete quotes from Laughing Boy. The table below has been updated accordingly. All Hail Amazon.com Previews!

When Amy, one of our readers, contacted us and volunteered to check some Cassie Edwards novels for us, I said “Sure!” and expected more examples that have been typical to the pattern: passages lifted from old ethnographies or Native American memoirs, with scattered instances of wildlife articles from conservation organizations or encyclopedias. Several other readers have volunteered to look at various Cassie Edwards novels, and I was going to compile these instances into the PDF I’d created to document everything, and update the PDF without creating any new posts, because really, we’ve made our point: the instances are widespread and egregious, and people who aren’t interested in tracking this closely don’t need to have their faces rubbed with blow-by-blow updates.

What I didn’t expect in my inbox last night was a comparison from Amy detailing the similarities between passages in Savage Dream and Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge.

Laughing Boy, unlike the other works, is not an ethnography, academic book or memoir. Laughing Boy is not only still under copyright, it is a fictional novel published in 1929, winning the Pulitzer in 1930.

This, in my opinion, drives the sheer wrongness of what happened to new heights. Using passages, word-for-word, of research material still isn’t a good thing by a long shot, but I can understand somebody being confused about the protocols of how much to acknowledge in a work of fiction. Using descriptive passages from another work of fiction, however, changes the tenor entirely. I talked to Sarah about posting this—I was very leery of driving the point into the ground when it’s been made with ample clarity—and we both agreed it was a different thing than the multitudes of other instances we’ve found, and that this deserved its own post.

Below is the table Amy compiled, comparing Savage Dream with Laughing Boy. I’m not bothering to include the reference works used in Savage Dream; I’ll be updating the PDF in a few hours and you can just look at that. I want to focus on the fact that this particular instances involves a work of fiction, and how it changes the tenor of the situation in a fundamental way.

Savage Dream (2003, ISBN 0-7862-5881-0, Thorndike Press [Large print edition]. First published 1990, Dorchester) Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge (2004, ISBN 0618446729, Houghton Mifflin)
At first light the desert is intimate, and somehow Shadow felt the presence of others as an intrusion this morning. …the blinding light of full day had not yet supplanted the soft greys of dawn, the uncertain forms and shapes of the cliffs had not yet become harsh with daylight, and the canyons were still soft with wells of coolness. The world was a secret place to each man…

p. 59

…and then rode into a canyon, its cliffs harsh by daylight, yet looming soft with coolness.

p. 416

At the first light, before dawn, the desert is intimate, and each man feels the presence of others as an intrusion. Blinding colour has not supplanted soft greys, uncertain forms; cliffs harsh by daylight, and thunderous-walled cañons loom soft with wells of coolness. The east is white—mother-of-pearl—the world is secret to each one’s self.

p. 42
Little and compact, he was like an arrow notched to a taut bowstring. A movement of the hand would send him flying swiftly to a mark.

p. 61
Little, compact, all black save for the tiny white spot on her forehead, she had the ugly Roman nose of character. She was like an arrow notched to a taut bowstring—a movement of the hand would release level flight swiftly to a mark.

p. 4
Shadow gazed with admiration at Racer, at his sleek, gleaming haunches, the bunched muscles at the juncture of his shoulder and chest, the ripple of light and shadow on his withers, his arched neck and smooth head, and the character and intelligence of his eyes.

p. 60-61
The chestnut stallion was coming into its strength, gleaming, round quarters, bunched muscles at the juncture of the throat and chest, a ripple of highlight and shadow on the withers, arched neck, pricked small Arab ears, bony head, eyes and nostrils of character and intelligence.

p. 157
As the insides of Shadow’s calves touched his horse’s barrel, he felt a current run through them and felt at peace with himself…at home. He was a skilled horseman, having spent half of his waking hours on a horse’s back. Not even the longest day of riding had ever destroyed his pleasure in the mile-eating lope of his stallion.

p. 61-62
Her man was a Navajo and a horseman; when he settled in the saddle, as the sides of his calves touched his pony’s barrel, and he felt the one current run through them, there was always that little look of uplift. Probably half of his waking life had been spent on a horse’s back, but not the longest day could destroy in him a certain pleasure in even the workaday jog or mechanical, mile-eating lope of a good pony.

p. 93
…Shadow swung himself into his high-cantled Navaho saddle with its seat of stamped leather held together with silver nails and draped with a dyed goatskin.

p. 61
The high-cantled navajo saddle he had made for her, with its seat of slung leather over which a dyed goatskin was thrown…

p. 93
Beyond were red-brown cliffs, dull orange bald rock, and yellow sand, leading away to blend into a kind of purplish brown with hazy blue mountains for background.

p. 63
Beyond its level were red-brown cliffs, dull orange bald-rock, yellow sand, leading away to blend into a kind of purplish brown with blue clouds of mountains for background.

p. 115
Looking up, he saw magnificent dark firs growing along the ledges. Up there, the ruddy rock, touched by sunlight, became dull orange and buff with flecks of gold and a golden line where the earth met a cloudless sky.

p. 63
Looking up, one saw magnificent, dark firs growing along the ledges and hanging valleys. Up there, the ruddy rock, touched by the sunlight, became dull orange and buff, with flecks of gold, and a golden line where it met a …” (free Google preview ended here)

p. 96

Amazon.com Previews has the following text listed on Page 96:
Looking up, one saw magnificent, dark firs growing along the ledges and hanging valleys. Up there, the ruddy rock, touched by the sunlight, became dull orange and buff, with flecks of gold, and a golden line where it met a flawless sky.
(Linking not possible, but go to this link and search for “golden line” to confirm this finding.)

It was now late afternoon and sandy dust was rising from the trail in clouds.

p. 87
Midday was warm, sandy dust rose from the trail in clouds.

p. 157
He had brought her to a high place after a fatiguing, scrambling climb, alleviated by the increasing growth of jack pine and spruce. They were following a winding path under firs; warm golden cliffs, painted with red and purplish brown and luminous shadows, loomed straight ahead.

p. 89
Now they were come among warm, golden cliffs, painted with red and purplish brown and luminous shadows, a broken country that changed with the changing sun, narrow canons, great mesas, yellow sands, and distant, blue mountains.

p. 95 [also, the “fatiguing, scrambling climb” “jack pine and spruce” and “wandering path under firs” bits get a Google hit with Laughing Boy p. 96, but it is unavailable for view.]

Amazon.com Previews has the following text listed on Page 96:
He brought her to a high place late one afternoon, a spur of Dzhil Clizhini. It had been a fatiguing, scrambling climb, with one piece to be done on foot, alleviated by the increasing growth of jack pine and spruce.
(Linking not possible, but go to this link and search for “scrambling, fatiguing climb” to confirm this finding.)

Below, the world was red in late afternoon sunlight where fierce, narrow canyons were ribboned with shadow and the lesser hills were streaked with opaque purple shadows like deep holes in the world.

p. 89
Amazon.com Previews has the following text listed on Page 96:
It was red in the late sunlight, fierce, narrow canons with ribbons of shadow, broad valleys and lesser hills streaked with purple opaque shadows like deep holes in the world, cast by the upthrust mesas.
(Linking not possible, but go to this link and search for “purple opaque shadows” to confirm this finding.)
There was shade and peace and coolness with a sweet smell of dampness.

p. 89
Here was all shade and peace, soft, grey stone, dark, shadowed green, coolness, and the sweet smell of dampness.

p. 19
Along the cliff was a long ledge, with the rock above it rising in a concave shell of light reflected under shadow.

p. 89
Along the north cliff was a long ledge, with the rock above it rising in a concave shell of light reflected under shadow.

p. 101
The world was full of the roar of hooves. The saddles and bridles were heavy with silver and brass as the Navaho leaned forward over their steeds’ necks, shrieking “E-e-e-e!” …

p. 108

The world became full of a roar of hooves and noise rushing together, the boys leaning forward over their horses’ necks, their mouths wide as they shouted, “E-e-e-e”!

p. 228-229

The world was full of a roar of hooves and two walls of noise rushing together, the men leaning forward over their horses’ necks, mouths wide. “Eeeee!”

p. 3
Charging Falcon staked his horse out where uncropped spears of grass stood singly, each inches from the next, in brown sand. A beaten track toward an oak tree and a break in the rock caught his eye. He followed it. Behind the oak, currant bushes grew in a niche of red rock, like a fold in a giant curtain. At the back was a full grown, lofty fir tree. Behind the tree a cleft opened at shoulder height into dark shadow. The footholds were worn to velvety roundness.

p. 201
Laughing Boy took the horses down to the windmill for water, and staked them out in a corner where uncropped spears of grass stood singly, each inches from the next, in brown sand. A beaten track toward an oak tree and a break in the rock caught his eye. A spring, perhaps. He followed it. Behind the oak, currant bushes grew hi a niche of red rock like the fold of a giant curtain. At the back was a full-grown, lofty fir. A spring, surely. Behind the fir a cleft opened at shoulder height into transparent shadow. The footholds were worn to velvety roundness in the sandstone…

p. 18
They met in a great swirl of plunging, dodging horses and swept on, all together, whooping for dear life, with some holding lances, others grasping shields.

p. 229
They met in a great swirl of plunging, dodging horses, and swept on all together, whooping for dear life, with the staff in front of them, almost onto the …[preview ended here]

p. 3
Silver and stones with soft highlights and deep shadows hung around her neck, glowing against her buckskin dress. Oval plaques of silver surrounded her waist; ceremonial jewels were sewn in the fringes of a sash that was draped across one shoulder. She wore moccasins with silver buttons shining at their sides.

p. 472
She was well dressed to show off what she wore; silver and stones with soft highlights and deep shadows glowed against the night-blue velveteen of her blouse; oval plaques of silver were at her waist, and ceremonial jewels in the fringe of her sash. Her blue skirt swung with her short, calculated steps, ankle-length, above the dull red leggings and moccasins with silver buttons.

p. 6
Maria blushed when two small naked boys brought ears of roasted corn on a wooden platter … Several women came and placed broiled goats’ ribs and corn bread before them.

p. 474
Where they went, they reclined on sheepskins, while two small naked boys brought ears of corn as they were roasted, and calm women set broiled goats’ ribs and corn bread before them.

p. 12
Categorized:

General Bitching...

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    jb says:

    Wow. Just… wow.

    I firmly believe plagiarism includes all works, nonfiction and otherwise, but honestly, with this (and a Pulitzer winner! Did she think nobody would notice??): There can be no doubt.

  2. 2
    Robin says:

    Okay, I’m pissed now.

  3. 3
    Ruth says:

    I am speechless.

  4. 4
    azteclady says:

    Holy WTF

  5. 5
    Robin says:

    Has Dorchester made a statement yet, and what about Kensington?

  6. 6
    Katherine says:

    Did she assume no one would read a 60 year old book (at the time)?  In some ways the rewarding of some of these passages disturbs me more than the word for word instances. 

    How many books of hers have now been verified to contain plagarized passages and how many sources are we talking about now?

  7. 7
    DS says:

    Oh, wow.  Savage Dreams 1990.

  8. 8

    it’s official: my head a’sploded.

    I’m tempted to compare the audaciousness of it to when I had to explain to another writer during this year’s NaNoWriMo that the title “Of Human Bondage” was not only already taken, but fairly famous… and she had not heard of it. **headbrick**

    But this is…

    daaaaaaaaaaang.

  9. 9
    Sara Dennis says:

    There are a couple of passages in this table that I’d say don’t really count in the “passages plagiarised” tally.

    But there are more that do. Wow. It just goes on and on.

  10. 10
    DS says:

    Looks like Jove was the first publisher.  Who owns Jove now?

  11. 11
    Bernita says:

    My cynical mind:
    I am not really surprised.

  12. 12

    WAITAMINIT! Go down to the one that starts “the roar of horses”

    am I reading this chart right but did she put the same paragraph more or less in TWO separate places in the SAME book?

    and nobody caught this? Not even to tell her when it first came out that “hey, you repeated yourself here”?

    I am seriously questioning the abilities of anyone involved in the prepublication editing/proofing process of this one. I mean come ON!

  13. 13
    DS says:

    Answered my own question.  Penguin owns Jove.  All right, will make it all tidy when there is some ‘splainin’ to be done.

  14. 14
    Candy says:

    Robin: No word yet from Dorchester. And I forgot to e-mail Kensington, DOH, which is my bad.

    I’m going to update the PDF in just a bit (it’ll take a few hours, because DAMN, there are a lot of new instances), firing it off to all the publishers concerned and then uploading it to this site. I’ll summarize the findings in this comment thread.

  15. 15
    Jackie L. says:

    As if this cake needed any frosting. . .

  16. 16

    whoops, that should have read “the world was full of the roar of hooves”

    and, I don’t know if this occurred to anyone else, but in a few of the old Warner Bros cartoons, Bugs Bunny used “Laughing Boy” as a derisive term to Daffy Duck. “Hey, Laughing Boy! One bullet left!”

    **sad I knew that off the top of my head, but true…**

  17. 17
    Robin says:

    Okay, well Savage Dream is Dorchester, right, so maybe it’s time to send some public pressure their way, too, to address this.

  18. 18
    Candy says:

    Arlene: Yes, you read that right.

    Savage Dream also contains several instances of paragraphs that are remarkably similar to another one of her own novels. This is not the first time things like these have been caught, and I have debated including them in the document, because I’m not entirely sure it’s noteworthy or newsworthy in quite the same way—if she wants to recycle her own passages, that’s not exactly great writing, but it’s not heinous in the same way.

    I suppose I can create another PDF for those sorts of things….

  19. 19
    Tsu Dho Nimh says:

    That’s certainly putting the sprinkles on the frosting on the cake.

  20. 20
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Okay, lone voice in the wilderness, but WHY does this take it to a fundamentally different level?  Part of me agrees with you, much to my chagrin, but why is it more egregious to have her steal the words of a novel than a non-fiction source?  Why?

  21. 21
    EAP says:

    Anyone else feel like crying at this point? I mean, I had this whole post planned about the assumption (in my experience) that “copying” non-fiction of all kinds is okay*. 

    (BTW, this wasn’t meant to imply in any way that the earlier examples posted here were at all justifiable (IMO). But I was trying to understand why this sort of thing happens and how people can defend it.)

    Now I just want to hold my head in my hands and weep.

    Shit…

    *It was just me and a soapbox ranting about how non-fiction is often seen as glamorous fiction’s boring, nerdy stepsister. And how there is a conflation of “facts” and the language they’re couched in. And how because non-fiction is merely the recital of “facts” little creativity is involved.

    Which, as anyone who’s ever sweated days to try to make information interesting, readable, digestible and entertaining will tell you, is sweet, savage horse patootey.

  22. 22
    Candy says:

    And Arlene: YES, that usage of “Laughing Boy” was the first thing that struck me, too. “One buwwet weft? Hey, Laughing Boy, did you hear that? One bullet left!” I pondered to Sarah whether they were referring to this novel.

  23. 23
    michelle says:

    Because by plagerizing fiction, it can’t be claimed as “research”.

  24. 24
    Alyssa says:

    As someone who used to teach college English, I looked at the previous samples and wondered if Ms. Edwards was like some of my students—genuinely baffled about the correct way to incorporate references. Doesn’t make it right, but it made me wonder . . .

    This discovery really demolishes that theory.

    This is just . . . just . . .

    Sweet heaven.

  25. 25

    Sarah: it takes it to a fundamentally different level because now there’s no longer even the veneer of a “shoddy research citation on non fiction material” defense. I agree that it should be no different/worse/bad to plagiarize nonfiction than it is for fiction, but once you swipe from fiction, the “research” angle goes out the window. That’s the angle, not from the inherent ethics POV, but from the perception of it POV.

  26. 26
    Candy says:

    Part of me agrees with you, much to my chagrin, but why is it more egregious to have her steal the words of a novel than a non-fiction source?  Why?

    Yes, that’s exactly what I want to examine. I agree fully with EAP said in this comment, and what many other people have said in other posts: Just because it’s research material doesn’t mean it’s OK to copy the language of the findings. I think part of it has to do with the fact that so many people DO see research as something that can be used as you see fit in a work of fiction, or being confused about what’s fair use and what’s not, and what needs to be attributed and what doesn’t.

    But chunks of descriptive passages in a novel being used in another novel—reworked so that they fit the characters in the new novel? That basically colors the whole situation with intent, if you know what I mean; it’s much harder to argue for ignorance or innocent confusion in this sort of case.

    Not that I’m accusing Edwards of malicious intent. Please take note, Legal Type Peoples Who May Be Representing Certain Interested Parties.

  27. 27
    Jackie L. says:

    Sarah Frantz—I think it bothers me that the book won the Pulitzer.  I mean, if you’re gonna plagiarize, go for the best.

    Why this strikes me as so much worse, even CE has gotta know, you don’t copy from somebody else’s work of fiction.  If her only excuse is well, hell, it was published in 1929, that still isn’t like saying my research was sloppy.

    I think it goes beyond careless to not giving a flying fuck whose phrases she borrows.

  28. 28
    Robin says:

    if she wants to recycle her own passages, that’s not exactly great writing, but it’s not heinous in the same way.

    Although it could be copyright infringement, especially if those other books are out under other publishers.

    Okay, lone voice in the wilderness, but WHY does this take it to a fundamentally different level?

    Like EAP, I don’t see it as any worse, but I’ve now lost any ability to even entertain the possibility that this was all about a confusion over factual information.  Now I’ve shifted over to the “there’s NO WAY she could think this was okay” position, even though we know it never was.  And yeah, now I’m starting to wonder more directly about her editors and publishers, too.

  29. 29
    Julianna says:

    [Everything I said before, without the generous benefit of the doubt I gave Edwards].

  30. 30
    megalith says:

    This is just horrible news. After reading through these absolutely lyrical passages, I can understand the temptation to copy and paste much more than I could in the case of the academic prose. But now the question for me becomes how much of Edwards’ manuscripts or indeed her writing “style” itself really belong to her? These passages would presumably be much much harder to spot as transcriptions. What are her fans really enjoying? If it is her descriptions, well we now know that many of those were taken word for word from other sources. If it is her “voice” then these examples bring the authenticity of even that in to question, as far as I’m concerned.

    My sense of humor tends to the bitingly sarcastic, unfortunately, and I have exercised it—perhaps too freely—in my earlier posts. But this is just beyond the realm of humor and verging on a real tragedy for all involved. Please, please let the trolls understand that this is not something that can even begin to be excused as a lack of knowledge about proper attribution. This is behavior that any writer should instinctively shun, in my opinion.

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