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Stolen Words - The Classic Book on Plagiarism Second Edition Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156011365
ISBN-10: 0156011360
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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."
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Fine lines separate unconscious influence, adaptation, paraphrase, and downright theft by writers. In this scholarly and engaging look at the many aspects of unattributed use of others' writing, Mallon (English, Vassar) delves into cases famous and obscure, flagrant and doubtful, trying to identify the motives of the perpetrators while recounting the harm done victims copied from and the embarrassment and lame excuses that follow exposure. His book displays fine literary detective work. Besides discussing fiction and essays, Mallon reveals the seamy side of university scholarship, student term-paper services, television production, and recent political speeches. Does more of this go on than is generally recognized? With little else currently available in book form, this up-to-date study is firmly recommended.
- William A. Donovan, Chicago P.L.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 1 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Second Edition edition (April 19, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156011360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156011365
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,917,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Seeing that this book had not yet garnered any reviews, I thought I would put in a word for Mallon's engrossing and fast-paced study of what is (to my mind anyway) a fascinating topic. In light of recent revelations about the work of Kearns Goodwin and Ambrose, it makes for a timely and lively read. In his opening thumbnail sketch of the history of plagiarism, Mallon shows how major literary figures such as Laurence Sterne, Coleridge and de Quincey infused their works with ample unattributed borrowings. (Sterne, for instance, stole heavily from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy -- even going so far as to plagiarize a passage about plagiarism -- and plagiarized his own love letters to his wife in letters he sent to his mistress years later.) The real gems here, though, are Mallon's discussion of modern scandals. Mallon writes about the novel "Wild Oats" by Jacob Epstein, a late '70s lit wonder boy with all the connections, who fell from grace when his plagiarisms of Martin Amis's "Rachel Papers" were revealed. (Reading Epstein's novel, the passages stolen from Amis seem to Mallon like "plateaus on otherwise flat land," roughly.) And in the cleverly titled chapter "Quiet Goes the Don," about former Texas Tech history professor Jamie Sokolow, Mallon shows how reluctant the academic establishment, down to the AAUP and American Historical Association, was to take action against an obvious and known plagiarist. (Sokolow, after he was coaxed out of Texas Tech, ended up evaluating historical research for the NEH in Washington.)
This book fascinatingly plumbs the psychology of the plagiarist, for example his seeming desire to get caught. (Epstein's novel features students who buy essays from term-paper companies, and a child who is punished for plagiarizing Winnie the Pooh.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stolen Words, The Classic Book on Plagiarism, Thomas Mallon; "A Harvest Book Harcourt, Inc."; "first published by Ticknor & Fields 1989"; "Published by Penguin Books 1991"; First Harvest edition 2001," with an "Afterword copyright... Thomas Mallon, 2001" (paperback)

"Essays on anything outdoors I find almost irresistible. On this particular occasion the [Sunday magazine section of the New York Times] offered one on trees with some lovely illustrations... I plunged into the article... the opening paragraph was most alluring. At the end of the second paragraph anyone with any interest in the subject would have had to say that this was going to be good, very good.

"The crash came in the third paragraph where there was mention of a fictional character in Mrs. Gaskell's 'Cranford,' an elderly gentleman who asked a lady what color ash buds were in March. When she pleaded ignorance, the old gentleman told her that he himself hadn't known until it had been revealed to him recently in a line of verse by a young poet, Alfred Tennyson: 'More black than ash buds in the front of March.'

"A wonderful touch, picturesque, arresting. In fact, unforgettable. I remembered reading it years earlier in a book about trees in winter that was written by some woman whose name did not come immediately to mind. A glance at the top of the Times Magazine story revealed the author was no lady. The man's name was unfamiliar to me but as I went further into the story familiar passages from the old book turned up in abundance, none surrounded by the quotation marks demanded by professional courtesy, let alone the copyright laws.

"The matter was mentioned the next day to Alden March, one of the Times senior editors...
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Format: Paperback
Billed as "The Classic Book On Plagiarism" in the subtitle of this work, Thomas Mallon's Stolen Words is somewhat outdated by now in the first decade of the new Millennium.

That's not to say the discussion of some older cases of plagiarism isn't interesting. Mallon's skill with words is quite evident in his discussion of these older cases such as the Epstein affair, the Falcon Crest hubbub, and other instances of plagiarism from the 1980s. To be fair there is a new "Afterword" on plagiarism in the most recent reprints.

But what about some of the most recent cases of plagiarism to break such as the Jayson Blair farce at the New York Times? The Jack Kelley flap at the USA Today? The Internet plagiarism and cheatsite/term-paper mill industry which has burgeoned since the early 1990s and on into the 2000s? These are missing from what is otherwise an excellent treatise on plagiarism, including a psychological analysis of the phenomenon.

To sum up then, Stolen Words is somewhat dated at this point, possibly still worth the read, but likely not to make a connection with the younger generation of readers in particular. Academically stimulating and more useful for historical cases than current happenings with the plagiarism phenomenon.

Dr. Herbert Ulysses Quickwit
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A good book!
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