Monday, December 07, 2009


Well done to The Listener and their Arts and Books Editor Guy Somerset for a huge 16 page section in this week's issue featuring, in their reviewers' opinions, the best 100 books of 2009. This is a great plug for books and will be welcomed by those seeking guidance on books to buy for Christmas. Bravo.

But for goodness sake isn't it time they let go of the Witi Ihimaera story? Fair enough, they first broke the story of apparent plagiarism by one of our foremost writers, but this week's story is surely bleeding the story far more than it needs.
This week they report on Australian Peter Stanley whose work also appears to have been used without acknowledgement but as they say in their report - Stanley says he regards the three extracts apparently taken from his book For Fear of Pain:British Surgery 1790-1850 more as a discourtesy and sloppiness by Ihimaera than actual plagiarism.

The Bookman's advice to The Listener? Give it a rest!


Andrew said...

As I have understood it, the story as first broken was not a case of "apparent plagiarism" but actual plagiarism. Perhaps the team at The Listener are sticking with it simply because some many in the academic and literary establishments, perhaps because Ihimaera has been regarded as one of "our foremost writers", keep trying to sweep this issue under the carpet. The question I believe it begs is whether someone who, at best, is this careless and sloppy in their work, can or should continue to be regarded as one of our foremost writers.

Keri h said...

Graham- what would you say if it was an unacknowledged useage from some of your writing?

When one of our senior writers has utilised other people's work without due acknowledgement - and, most especially, that writer is in the position of being a teaching professor at one of our foremost univerisities- why shouldnt the controversey continue?

I want it to focus on Witi's derelictions - but more on the lack of adequate editorship at Penguin NZ.

Yeah, me speaking - who really doesnt like editors.

But in this instance, she'he would've been gold - and Penguin just didnt have one.

R. said...

Perhaps if Auckland had done an honest job of investigating this the Listener would not HAVE a story?

Instead then made a huge deal of the of the "0.4%" and now we find the actual level of plagiarism is at least twice that.

That sounds like a story to me. But why shoot the messenger?

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah! I totally agree. There wasn’t even anything new in their story. I feel like cancelling my subscription.

Jolisa said...

Anonymous, there were actually several new things in the story:
• another writer grumpy about their work being appropriated (Stanley says "I think it's a scandal") and fairly scathing about the official response.
• further confirmation that "0.4%" was never an accurate accounting
• the head of a major publishing house invoking copyright in a bid to shut down a discussion of... uh... copyright.

The only reason the story has had much longer legs than one might have expected (it is getting a bit boring, even for me!) is because those legs weren't cut off at the knees in the first place. Which could have been achieved with a forthright and unequivocal response from author and publisher, along the lines of: "The manuscript is compromised, so we're withdrawing the book from sale in order to do the right thing by the author, the reading public, and the story. Please stand by for the new improved second edition."

Something like that would have preserved the mana and integrity of not only the story, but everyone involved -- and would likely have taken the sting out of the Laureate timing, to boot. But I guess the Christmas market beckoned, and so the book stayed in the shops.

Pace Prof. Lawrence Jones, I know that accidents happen in the writing and publishing process, but this goes far beyond that. I agree with what's implicit in Andrew's statement above: that we should expect the best from our foremost writers and publishers, and have the right to be disappointed when they don't deliver it. Anything less would be disrespectful - both to our living treasures, the writers; and to their loyal supporters, the readers.