Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A turn-up for the books

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  • giovanni tiso,

    aaargh the 'Erald angles...

    Have I told you that I love you lately?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Oh dear, now Prof. Keith Sorrenson is claiming that Witi snaffled some of his work too.

    A sticky situation just got stickier, methinks....at least allegedly.

    For an earlier book too, the Matriarch. Which really puts any 'oops, accident, never do it again, promise' lines out of order. That's chopping block stuff that is.

    Be interesting to learn more about that incident, see if it's similar.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Also nice to hear give short shift to the idea that Auckland Uni had an out because The Trowenna Sea was not published "under the university's auspices".

    I wonder if the university counts novels written by creative faculty towards its research output. Can anyone confirm this?
    Because if so, then the university very much does have something at stake here.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Oh dear, now Prof. Keith Sorrenson is claiming that Witi snaffled some of his work too.

    A sticky situation just got stickier, methinks....at least allegedly.

    I'm going to have to go to the library, and do some research in places where Google doesn't reach, but I don't think we're talking about an allegation but a well on the public record case that sounds awfully familiar. And even if it was, I don't see why Sorenson would lie. His tone on Nine to Noon seemed more sorrowful than angry, and what anger was there was directed more at the University.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I wonder if the university counts novels written by creative faculty towards its research output. Can anyone confirm this?

    It does.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I have thought a bit about this. It seems to me no one has questioned that this novel represents a substantial and original work of imagination. Surely, then, this must be the test on the degree of seriousness with which this plagiarism is viewed? Once upon a time, when the spoken and written word was the only means of communication for ideas, novelists were much more prolific than today. Agatha Chrisitie wrote 80 novels. Alexander Dumas wrote 277. A 20th century author called John Creasey apparently wrote 600+ novels under 28 different pen names. The reason I mention this is I read somewhere that (I think) Mark Twain was in the habit of writing down pithy phrases and comments he heard or read in travels. I am sure that unattributed borrowing of different turns of phrase was endemic in the heyday of the production line written word in English literature - only they didn't have the internet back then so no one could check. I am not familiar with the duration of these notorious "sixteen passages" within the novel, but I get the impression they constitute just that - passages. If my recollection is correct on Mark Twain, I wonder how his writing could stand up to the scrutiny of the internet?

    The internet has allowed much greater checking and turned everyone from the professor down into a lazy SOB. Most education, even at tertiary level, treads a well worn path. It is nonsense to suggest that amongst the billions of words and millions of essays, theses, and doctoral submissions the same ideas, quotes, references and phrases are not repeated time and time again. Students have always borrowed and re-written to a greater to a greater or lesser extent their mates work and essays. Yet it is only now we have an obsession with plagiarism in our tertiary institutions. This is, IMHO, actually a symptom of the wider general malaise afflicting our higher educational institutions. Concentrating on the evil of plagiarism and applying draconian punishments to students caught plagiarising is as often used to mask falling standards as much as express any genuine concern that someone might not be submitting original work. Now the University of Auckland is caught on the horns of a dilemma. To admit that Witi Ihimaera's crime isn't all that much and that novelists may have been pinching the best bits of each others writing since Homer was a lad is to destroy their moral force when dealing with plagiarism from their students; Yet to confront the root cause of this plague of plagiarism in their student body would be to open a can of worms indeed.

    No wonder they just want it to go away.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    If my recollection is correct on Mark Twain, I wonder how his writing could stand up to the scrutiny of the internet?

    While I take your point, Twain was far from the only 19th century author who tore out a lot of hair over pirated editions of his work he not only didn't get any royalties for, but were often horribly corrupt (in the textual rather than the moral sense). Much as I love 19th century literature, I'm thankful writers and publishers are (or should be) a little less casual about intellectual property than they used to be.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    All of this could have been avoided if he'd just put a "RT" in front of each passage.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Retwiti, yes. (That belongs to Conor Roberts, I believe.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Be interesting to learn more about that incident, see if it's similar.

    The little I could find Googling before breakfast suggested that text Sorrenson wrote for the 1966 Te Ara encyclopedia of New Zealand entry about native land tenure had been used, unattributed.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    All of this could have been avoided if he'd just put a "RT" in front of each passage.

    Aaaaand... brilliant.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    The little I could find Googling before breakfast suggested that text Sorrenson wrote for the 1966 Te Ara encyclopedia of New Zealand entry about native land tenure had been used, unattributed.

    You get a summary here:

    http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Whi06Kota-t1-g1-t2.html

    Key quote:

    The history of the area in question in the two novels is given, if in a fractured manner, by Ihimaera during the course of the narrative action. For much of the information on land confiscation Ihimaera has used J. B. Mackay’s Historic Poverty Bay and Keith Sorrenson’s entry on “Land Confiscations” in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand History.8

    And the footnote:

    Mackay’s text has been extensively used by Ihimaera in the section on Te Kooti in Act Two of The Matriarch. In Act Three (238-244) Ihimaera uses Mackay’s chapter entitled “Spoils to the Victors” (305-309) alongside Sorrenson’s essay. Ihimaera’s failure to acknowledge Sorrenson as a source sparked controversy – see “Matriarch Passages Copied – Historian” by Andrew Johnston, Dominion Sunday Times, 26 Nov. 1989:1.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    Interestingly, you get The Matriarch cited in a University of Canterbury English Dept essay writing guide, written in 1990.

    1.5. WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T DO: PLAGIARISM
    It was different in the old days, when there was no such concept as cultural or intellectual "property". Bach and Handel could appropriate themes from other composers and use them in their own works without objection or penalty. In the late 1970s, on the other hand, George Harrison was sued for over £3 million for using an old song by the Ronettes ( He's So Fine ) as the musical basis for his hit song "My Sweet Lord." The point was not that he actually used the song, but that he did so without seeking permission and without attributing the origin of his song. He was deemed in court to have stolen the original and perpetrated a fraud by using it as his own original work: the result for Harrison was an expensive settlement which also included huge court costs. In 1989, Witi Ihimaera was publicly accused of plagiarising sections of an historical article on the Land Wars by Keith Sorrenson in the New Zealand Encyclopedia in his1986 novel The Matriarch. Although his excuse was that in the heat of creative composition he had forgotten to cite the source in his Acknowledgements page, it was clear that he knew very well that he was using someone else's words and presenting them as his own ^In academic situations the equivalent crime is called PLAGIARISM, which is the stealing of the words or ideas of others and presenting them as your own". The phrase in quotation marks in that sentence is taken from Donald Hall, Writing Well, 6th edition (Glenview, 111.: Scott, Foresman, 1988), p. 7. If I had left out the inverted commas and the reference I have just given, then I would have been guilty of plagiarism for stealing Hall's words and fraudulently pretending they were my own. There are also more subtle ways of plagiarising which include the unacknowledged appropriation of a phrase from another writer, rewriting a sentence or paragraph in your own words, or following the same process of argument or logic as in the original source as if it were your own. Although it is sometimes argued that some cases of plagiarisim are unintentional, or simply occur in the "heat of créative composition," we argue that the essay demands conscious attention to all details and that includes an awareness of sources and the necessity to cite references. In the section on planning in this Guide, I indicate ways of avoiding potential difficulty in this area through the practice of keeping accurate notes. A small amount of effort in note-taking will mean the avoidance of "accidental" plagiarism. There is naturally a very good reason for avoiding plagiarism, whether intentional or otherwise. It is that the crime carries very severe penalties, which include a mark of zero for the essay and the possibility of a failing grade for the course. If you are in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism in a particular case, consult your tutor or lecturer. If you are not in doubt,don't plagiarise.

    Link here:

    http://www.econ.canterbury.ac.nz/personal_pages/john_fountain/Documents/englishessaywritingguidea.pdf

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    I wonder what the UoA wil think of the quote from American academic Margaret Soltan, "Pretending it didn't happen is the sort of thing a very provincial university wiill do"

    Soltan's been blogging this fairly extensively, and has this to say:

    It wasn’t really, as Gracewood graciously claims, Google Books that outed this man. It was Gracewood’s impressive sense of prose — the way style always displays the mark, subtle or not, of one person only; the way language flows or doesn’t flow — that revealed this imposter of a book.

    I'm an academic gossip junkie and I've been reading Soltan's blog for years, but it's just weird when you know (and have been taught by) the people involved.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Thanks philip. NZETC was having a meltdown earlier this AM -- I almost wondered whether people were hitting it too hard trying to get that link you posted.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Tipping my hat to Margaret Soltan, for another academic who gets it:

    Award-winning author and poet Vincent O'Sullivan, an emeritus professor of English at Victoria University, was reluctant to comment directly on the "Witi Ihimaera situation" but said the drugs analogy was fair.

    "It's a performance-enhancing technique that works at someone else's expense," he said.

    "Apart from the personal ethical issues involved, plagiarism gives an unfair advantage over contemporaries and colleagues."

    I wonder if O'Sullivan will be asking his former colleague Bill Manhire why he and his fellow Arts Foundation Laureates selectors didn't seem quite so fussed...

    I still think kleptomania is a better analogy than drug cheating. After all, you can pity a klepto, accept that it's a psychological compulsion, but still keep firmly in view that stealing other people's shit is just wrong. Period. Full stop. The end.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Interestingly, you get The Matriarch cited in a University of Canterbury English Dept essay writing guide, written in 1990.

    I own this. Odd to realise it might be the origin of my some of my attitudes on the issue.

    It also contains an explanation of the origins of the term 'deadline'. They're just sayin', is all...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It wasn’t really, as Gracewood graciously claims, Google Books that outed this man. It was Gracewood’s impressive sense of prose — the way style always displays the mark, subtle or not, of one person only; the way language flows or doesn’t flow — that revealed this imposter of a book.

    Jolisa actually explained that dimension quite nicely in this morning's radio interview.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    Regarding the "drug cheat" analogy, I got the impression from the way the article was worded that the journalist actually put that analogy to O'Sullivan and he agreed - rather than O'Sullivan volunteering it as an analogy. Of course then the article became "O'Sullivan says plagiarism like drug cheating".

    From the NZ Herald article:

    Award-winning author and poet Vincent O'Sullivan, an emeritus professor of English at Victoria University, was reluctant to comment directly on the "Witi Ihimaera situation" but said the drugs analogy was fair.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    It wasn’t really, as Gracewood graciously claims, Google Books that outed this man. It was Gracewood’s impressive sense of prose — the way style always displays the mark, subtle or not, of one person only; the way language flows or doesn’t flow — that revealed this imposter of a book.

    And might I say how nice to hear Jolisa'contribution and the kind of skill that it requires recognised so eloquently.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    George Harrison was sued for over £3 million for using an old song by the Ronettes ( He's So Fine )...

    Not the Ronettes; the Chiffons.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    So UC use Witi as an example of plagiarism in 1990, the same year he started at UoA.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I still think kleptomania is a better analogy than drug cheating.

    I read on another thread that it can't be theft, nothing was actually taken, just copied ;)

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I read on another thread that it can't be theft, nothing was actually taken, just copied ;)

    I'd suggest you tell Karen Walker that you're just "borrowing" the patterns for her next collection. I've always wanted to see what death by high end accessories looks like. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    The correct term is "appropriate." Appropriation absolves all sins.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

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