cover image Stolen Words: Forays Into the Origins and Ravages of Plagiarism

Stolen Words: Forays Into the Origins and Ravages of Plagiarism

Thomas Mallon. Ticknor & Fields, $18.45 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-393-9

Mallon, who examined diaries in A Book of One's Own , here probes the opposite end of the literary spectrum: plagiarism. Although ably researched and enthusiastic and clever in tone, the book has an uneasy mix of topics which may preclude its finding an audience. With a close comparison of texts, Mallon discusses suspicious similarities between the works of Victorian novelist and international copyright champion Charles Reade and Frenchwoman Charles Reybaud, the writings of Jayme Sokolow and fellow academic Stephen Nissenbaum in the 1970s and '80s, and Anita Clay Kornfeld's 1980 generational novel Vintage and TV's Falcon Crest. Even though they've read about the case in the New York Times et al., publishing folk will undoubtedly be most attuned to the accusations against Jacob Epstein, who apologized in print for phrases apparently lifted from Martin Amis's The Rachel Papers and integrated into Epstein's 1979 Wild Oats. Mallon concludes that literary predators often are repeat offenders and society usually is timid about prosecuting their crimes. He warns: ``To see the writer's words kidnapped, to find them imprisoned, like changelings, on someone else's equally permanent page, is to become vicariously absorbed by violation.'' (Oct.)