Thursday, December 07, 2006

Duty calls

Ian McEwan has been accused of plagiarism in his 2001 novel Atonement. Several prominent writers have come to his defense.

I suppose I should weigh in on it, because it's kind of the news in the book world right now, but I don't really care. McEwan has always acknowledged his use of the autobiography of the late romance novelist Lucilla Andrews as a source and inspiration, and, what's more, Andrews appears to have been well aware of Atonement, and appears to have not been concerned. (Andrews died of cancer in October, 2006.)

My one complaint is that a lot of the authors defending McEwan appear to be doing so in a purely reflexive manner. There is a difference between what McEwan did in writing Atonement and what our good friend Kaavya Viswanathan did when she wrote How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. However, no one seems to be interested in trying to describe what that difference is. Even the NYT, in what seemed to me to be a fairly token effort, somehow failed to satisfy.

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