1) I began David Schields’s much talked-about essay/manifesto Reality Hunger last night–a book which liberally uses unaccredited excerpts from a range of sources and compiles them into a kind of long list of inter-referential comments, anecdotes and arguments. On the first page of the appendix, Schields writes that he’d wanted to leave out all citations, but that:
“Random House lawyers determined that it was necessary for me to provide a complete list of citations; the list follows (except, of course, for any sources I couldn’t find or forgot along the way).
If you would like to restore the book to the form in which I intended it to be read, simply grab a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade or box cutter [ed: is this an intentional nod toward terrorism?] and remove pages 210-218 by cutting along the dotted line.”
Indeed, Random House humored David, and included the dotted line near the spine of the pages in question.
2) I woke up to read of a German 17 year old author named Helene Hegemann, who, after winning rave reviews and consideration for one of Germany’s top literary prizes for her intriguingly titled novel “Axolotl Roadkill,” has since received (unwanted?) accusations of plagiarism. This may not be big news as such–such stories break every year or so–but having apparently in at least one case lifted nearly an entire page from another novel, her defense caught my eye. The Times article states that Helene
“has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. ‘There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,’ said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.”
In other words, she’s entirely unrepentant. Not only that, but the prize committee considering her for a 25k award, knew about these charges before entering her book into consideration! And they’re okay with it! Certainly there have been great artists who’ve experimented with cut and paste techniques, and no one would deny that unique, important works of art can be made entirely of “borrowed” material. So are these two wildly divergent authors right?
I’ve posted before about whether or not artists should be paid, and whether or not it makes sense to copyright our work, but these moral questions sidestep the perhaps more central point: that society could be moving toward a less constrictive view of intellectual property whether we like it or not.