Skip to main content

View Diary: I Wrote "To Kill A Mockingbird" - Plagiarism and Other Follies (55 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Very nice! I wouldn't call using two words... (16+ / 0-)

    ...that fit together well "plagiarism."

    "Plagiarism" is stealing whole strings - paragraphs at the least, and often whole ideas.    Sometimes telling an entire story in a new way can fail to be plagiarism.

    The entire script of the film "Apocalypse Now" was in fact an "update" of Joseph Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness" - Conrad got very little credit in the film - although Coppola quite openly acknowledged it.

    A fair fraction of Shakespeare is derivative, and scholars make whole careers trying to find out from whom he "stole" his plots.    He's still Shakespeare.

    When Faulkner wrote a book and titled it "The Sound and the Fury," he was not plagiarizing Shakespeare, and when Hemingway titled a book entitled "For Whom the Bell Tolls" he was not plagiarizing John Donne.

    A more difficult case is the work of Jerzy Kosinski, and the famous - justifiably - "The Painted Bird."   From where I sit, I'm not really interested in how the book came to be, but am more interested in the fact that it exists.

    In any case, your poem is quite beautiful, and the fact that it involves an adjective and noun that may have been strung together thousands, if not tens of thousands, of times takes nothing away at all.

    Thank you for sharing.

    •  I agree with your point that two words do not (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      True North, twigg, pdxteacher, blueoasis

      constitute plagiarism, but I know exactly how Twigg feels. Fifteen or twenty years ago a friend who was writing dispatches for the home paper about his and his family's stay in China where he was teaching english, used the term "a tangerine sun" to describe the setting sun. It's probably been used many times before-perhaps he borrowed it from someone else-but I was struck by the succinctly beautiful description using a fruit that has been cultivated for thousands of years in the country where he was teaching. To this day, I always wish I could use this description of the setting sun when I write, but I just can't bring myself to use it because I know it is not something I thought of. It seems silly-tangerine is an adjective one could use for anything orange-but I guess because the reaction I had when I first read his words was so sublime, I feel like I should always thank him for eliciting that reaction in me, and therefore do not feel right in claiming it as my own. Does this make any sense?

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:36:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It makes sense. Here's a strategy I used... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg, marleycat, blueoasis

        ...when I was writing fiction, which I no longer do in any case.

        I wanted to use the words, "Love is a bird," at a certain point in a short story I wrote, and although I couldn't think of an attribution, I was still sure that someone somewhere had used it, but it was essential to the allusions of the tale, so I wrote it thusly:

        Suppose, as they sometimes say, that love is a bird, who alights wherever she will...
        The bold part was a dodge of course.

        So you may try, if you need the "tangerine sun" something like this:  

        ...what they have called the tangeriine sun
        ...what a poet called the "tangerine sun..."
        Personally, I wouldn't worry about it though.   You will know if your work is your own.

        As it happens, I once wrote a book, never submitted for publication, that ended with a sunset, and was quite happy with it, although I'm sure that there are hundreds, or maybe thousands that end similarly.    A work will not be trivial if it goes to some cultural universal if there's enough guts in between the first word and the last.

        Afterall, "Hamlet" is just a tale about a troubled relationship with a stepfather, and there's lots and lots and lots of step-parent difficulty tales that are told and written, everything from Cinderella to "A Series of Unfortunate Events..." but nobody really worries about how often the plot is retold, so long as there is something new in the spin.

        The novel I wrote was basically a retelling of the Faust myth, and I knew as much from day one, and kept at it anyway.

        If I read "tangerine sun..." in a work with no mechanism as such, I wouldn't have a second thought about it.

    •  I do think Coppola plagiarized Conrad. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NNadir, twigg

      But Conrad is dead, and Coppola was being nominated for and winning all kinds of awards. Plus, he was a highly respected powerful American director, post The Godfather, and Conrad wasn't.

      It's still shameful that he "adapted"  this great work of art without ever giving any credit.

      I'm a huge FFC fan. Huge. But I'm certain he defends his rights aggressively (for himself and for his eventual estate) . Too bad he doesn't always respect the rights of other artists equally.

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:19:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah. I was a little annoyed as well... (7+ / 0-)

        ...particularly so because Conrad never really received the financial recognition he deserved for the depth of human experience he explored, so to have him ripped off even in death seemed well, a little crass.

        Conrad was one of those rare people who could see beyond his times to a moral truth, since "Heart of Darkness" was written when "The White Man's Burden" concept was considered culturally acceptable.   For my money, the opening passages of "The Heart of Darkness," are some of the most beautiful passages in the English language, Marlowe reflecting on the fate of the Roman Legions who first sailed the Thames.

        If you're making a movie about traveling up a river to arrest an idealist transformed into a monster, well...really...well...

        It would have taken nothing from "Apocalypse Now" to have put Conrad in the credits.   In fact, it would have made for a better film, since one wouldn't have had the distraction of thinking about these things while watching it.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site