I’ve given a few workshops on blogging and writing online, and there’s one point I make repeatedly: anything, and I do mean anything, that you write online is public and pervasive and permanent.
It’s public. Even if it’s passcoded or on the high-level security circuit known as a Yahoo email loop, it’s public.
It’s pervasive. If you don’t want it to be everywhere, it will be. It’s the opposite of Visa: it’s everywhere you don’t want it to be.
And it’s permanent. No matter how many times you edit, the original remains.
Which brings me to a fourth P.
The first paragraph of her review is key:
Winner of Britain’s prestigious Man Booker prize, the novel is certainly my cuppa. For one thing, I love “voice-y” writing. And Mantel tells the story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell, the self-made son of a violent Putney brewer and blacksmith, in the third person present tense, most often referring to the protagonist, one of history’s more famous anti-heroes, as “he.” It gives the novel a simultaneous sense of immediacy and distance, a seemingly oxymoronic balance that is hard to strike; yet Mantel finds that razor’s edge and remains there for 532 pages. There are a few drawbacks to this tone, however. Since there are several scenes where more than one man is in the room, referring to Cromwell as “he” occasionally makes for confusion, and I have found myself needing to re-read passages to make sure I know who’s talking. Knowing who’s talking is exceptionally important in a world where one’s political and religious opinions can be calculated by scant degrees.
Her paragraph after the synopsis originally read:
Mantel tells the story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell (1485?-1540), a self-made son and the of a violent Putney brewer and blacksmith, in the third person present tense, most often referring to the protagonist as “he.” It gives the novel a simultaneous sense of immediacy and distance. The reader feels like they are right there in the room as the wheeling and dealing is going on. There are a few drawbacks to this, however. Since there are several scenes where there is more than one man in the room, referring to Cromwell as “he” makes it incredibly confusing at times, and I had to re-read sections to make sure I knew who was talking. It doesn’t help that so many of the characters are named Thomas.
I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a simultaneous sense of immediacy, distance… and repetition.
Carroll ranted about the issue on Facebook without naming names, and later posted an entry about it titled Plagiarism: Setting the Record Straight.
The similarities are far too close for coincidence. Not only have my words been used, but the opinions contained within them. Sure, people may share similar opinions of any given thing, but we would hope they would express those opinions in their own words.
Mahon responded by removing some of the content in her original review, and in the comments to Carroll’s entry on plagiarism, it seems Carroll and Mahon have shaken virtual hands and moved on.
Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said…
Leslie, I only know that you accused me of plagiarism because someone who knows how history said that you mentioned a former friend plagiarized from you. Who else could it be but me, since we both recently wrote about WOLF HALL. I removed the passages that you felt were too similar to yours and I apologized for inadvertantly hurting you. I deliberately didn’t use your name because I didn’t think it was fair. I would never deliberately use another author’s words without attributing them. If you had emailed privately to say that you thought I had used your words I would have willingly removed the passages and that would have been the end of it.
Leslie Carroll said…
Thank you very much, Elizabeth. I hope you see now, with the passages listed one right above the other how very similar your wording was to mine; and how anyone could see that I might find it impossible to believe that you had not incorporated my words directly into your own review. If there was not such an astonishing similarity that did indeed seem deliberate from where I sit, I would not have called attention to it.
I am glad that you have revised your review. Now let’s put the matter to bed and each get on with writing our own books. Life is too short and our paths cross too often. And if your comment is the equivalent of apologizing and holding out your hand, then mine is the equivalent of accepting that apology and shaking it.
Mahon also posted in the revised version of her review the following addendum:
Addendum: I have removed portions of this review after being alerted that they seemed a little too similar to another author’s review. I had not read this other review, but after doing so, I decided felt the best thing to would be to remove those sections. I have apologized to the author, Leslie Carroll for inadvertantly causing her any distress. I would never deliberately or maliciously harm another author by stealing their work.
I call bullshit. Bull. Shit.
Once again, it’s time to break out the Plagiarism Drinking Game.
Key point: “Acceptance of responsibility and sincere apologies to the offended party.”
Copying occurred. Copying occurred blatantly.
And here we go around again: It was “inadvertant” (sic). It was not deliberate or malicious.
What’s the explanation? Astrophysical disturbance manifesting as malfunction of the CTRL, C and P keys? Out of body experience? Jesus Christ on a Xerox machine, there’s nothing “a little bit” about the similarities. They’re egregious!
So: to recap: text on the internet is Public. We can all see it. It’s Pervasive – it’s everywhere, especially to anyone who can lift a finger (doesn’t matter which one) and hit the ‘Print Screen’ key.
And it’s Permanent.