madrobins (madrobins) wrote,

I Don't Get It

Via Jim Macdonald at Making Light, I learn of Dr.Joanne Benford, lecturer in creative writing in the UK, has been accused of plagiarism. In one of her short story collections Dylan Thomas's radio play "Holiday Memory" appears almost verbatim (only a few words changed here and there) under the same title--and her name, of course. And that's just, as the phrase goes, the tip of the iceberg.

Aside from the general tut-tuttery about the crime itself (plagiarism is dishonest and wrong and lazy and every bad thing you can say about it) the thing that always fascinates me about a story like this is the nerve of it. This isn't like embezzling something from your workplace. It isn't even like coshing someone on the head in a dark alley and skulking away. This is such a public crime: like stealing a necklace from Tiffany's and wearing it to a society gala the next day. There may be an illicit thrill to the exercise, but the cost seems too high to me. Not to mention it's not an evening's thrill before you put the necklace away and don't flaunt it again until next year's gala; the story is out there for anyone who looks. Sooner or later you're going to get caught. Maybe that's the point? I don't know; I can only judge by myself. If I did this once (let alone, as appears to be the case, many many times) I would be in a constant crouch of anxiety, certain that I was going to be caught.

All this to have my name on a book? Is this the logical extension of the notion that some people don't want to write, they just want to have written? I could write a story about the why and the how and make it convincing, but I suspect Dr. Benford's own reasons would be just as weirdly compelling...and would be hers.
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