- Although his prestigious contemporaries have come to his defense, Ian McEwan gets a harsh rebuke from Slate editor Jack Shafer, who wonders why nobody is using "the P-word" against the novelist.
As a long-time magazine and newspaper editor, I'd have no trouble firing McEwan for writing as he did if he worked for me.
Shafer compares similar passages from McEwan's (aptly titled, it turns out) novel Atonement and novelist Lucilla Andrews' 1977 memoir No Time for Romance, from which McEwan is accused of "copying." Here's one of the more damning examples, starting with the Andrews passage:
Our "nursing" seldom involved more than dabbing gentian violet on ringworm, aquaflavine emulsion on cuts and scratches, lead lotion on bruises and sprains.
And here's the McEwan:
In the way of medical treatments, she had already dabbed gentian violet on ringworm, aquaflavine emulsion on a cut, and painted lead lotion on a bruise.
I detect no mash-up here, no adding of value, and no "creative use," to quote Pynchon's generous letter of support. McEwan helps himself to Andrews' words as if they first appeared on the planet in one of his rough drafts. To protest, as he does, that her memoir served as "research" is a lie. McEwan rewrote Andrews' vivid copy and called it his own. The laugh of larceny is that the Booker Prize-winner didn't even improve it.
Didn't some Harvard undergrad named Kaavya Viswanathan get her ass kicked a few months back for doing exactly the same thing? Funny how you can get away with it when the literary lions decide to defend one of their own.
- Noir writer Elizabeth Stromme, author of Joe's Word, has died at the age of 59.
- The New York Times has a feature on film adaptations of W. Somerset Maugham's works, including the most recent, The Painted Veil (the second time it's been filmed), starring Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Liev Schreiber, which will open on Dec. 20th.
I'd have a lot more interest in this article if the writer, Charles McGrath, hadn't incorrectly identified Bill Murray's 1984 version of The Razor's Edge as "a vanity production" that was worse than the "pretty bad" 1946 film starring Gene Tierney and Anne Baxter.
Maybe I'm in the minority here (and I've never read Maugham's novel, it's true), but as a Bill Murray fan, I've always thought the film was grossly underrated. Now that the rest of the world is starting to recognize Murray as more than a sarcastic "funnyman," watch the movie again and see if you don't like it.
- Publishers Lunch reports that Johns Hopkins University Press has received a $750,000 grant "to fund the publishing of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot, which will consist of seven volumes published over nine years. According to the press, "only about 10 percent of Eliot's prose writing has ever been published and available" — and, tragically, most of that in the form of a really awful musical.
- Last Friday, Adam Haslett and Tobias Wolff received the PEN/Malamud Award "recogniz[ing] a body of work which demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction." Maud Newton has the full details.
- More from the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion: Danielle Marshall, a front-line book buyer for Powell's new Beaverton store at Cedar Hills Crossing, is interviewed extensively about the hottest new books for the Tigard Times.
÷ ÷ ÷
Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.
The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.
Books mentioned in this post