14 January 2011
Patrick Poivre d'Arvor
I never knew of his existence until I did a google search about a week ago for plagiarism, hoping to find some juicy scandal and ... there he was. And there it is.
D'Arvor has written a biography of Ernest Hemingway scheduled for publication January 19. The last time I checked, this 400-page book is STILL scheduled for publication, juicyness notwithstanding.
L’Express claims that much of d'Arvor's book was copied from a book on that subject by an American writer, Peter M. Griffin. This Peter Griffin is apparently not the one who is the lead character in "Family Guy," but surely I jest. (Don't call me Shirley.)
In an era in which we have sunk so low as to bowdlerize Huckleberry Finn, why worry about a little plagiarism here and there? Because there's a principle involved, and indeed it's the same principle involved in opposition to that bowdlerization. The point is that we are burying our literary history -- we are mulching it so completely we no longer seem to know or care who wrote what, using which words. And there is nothing more important to who we are and who we will be than that we retain the critical intelligence necessary to maintain these distinctions.
We have to be able to say, "Twain wrote this text, not that other text that has been patched up and given his name." Likewise, we have to be able to say, "Griffin wrote this, and anyone else who makes use of it ought to credit him properly." They are, indeed, two perspectives on the SAME side of the same coin.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.