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NYTimes Book Review Guest Essay May Have Been a Copy

According to today’s NY Times Book Review, the editors regret publishing a March 4 essay by Ben Schott. Mr. Schott opined about his book abusing ways in an article entitled “Confessions of a Book Abuser.”

Several readers found some disturbing similarities between Schott’s essay and a piece of Anne Fadiman’s 1998 book, “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.”


The Editor’s Note articulated the most similar passages as the opening lines of each essay.

But the most striking resemblance occurs in the opening lines of each essay. Schott’s begins: “I have to admit I was flattered when, returning to my hotel room on the shores of Lake Como, a beautiful Italian chambermaid took my hand. . . . Escorting me to the edge of the crisply made bed, the chambermaid pointed to a book on my bedside table. ‘Does this belong to you?’ she asked. I looked down to see a dog-eared copy of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Vile Bodies’ open spread-eagle, its cracked spine facing out. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Sir, that is no way to treat a book!’ she declared, stalking out of the room.”

Fadiman’s essay begins: “When I was 11 and my brother was 13, our parents took us to Europe. At the Hà´tel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen, as he had done virtually every night of his literate life, Kim left a book facedown on the bedside table. The next afternoon, he returned to find the book closed, a piece of paper inserted to mark the page, and the following note, signed by the chambermaid, resting on its cover:

“Sir, you must never do that to a book.”

The Editors claim that the Book Review would not have published Schott’s essay had it been aware of Fadiman’s. I can’t help but think of the article about Google Book Search being used to combat plagiarism.

Via NY Times.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

2 Comments

  1. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:30:44

    Hmm, is this really copying or derivative influence? Is being scolded by a chambermaid copyrightable? It almost sounds like an old literary trope.

  2. morganusvitus
    Apr 05, 2007 @ 08:57:28

    The site looks great ! Thanks for all your help ( past, present and future !)

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