Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you all had a great week. I actually managed to get one book post in this week, for The Postmistress, so now I’ve only got two more to write this week and then I’ll be back on track. Work is still super busy, but I feel like I have a better pace and more focus. The biggest challenge this week will be getting back to the gym, something I haven’t been super regular about since, oh, September? I am lucky to get three days in lately…hopefully going at a scheduled time will help.
I’ve been thinking about writing about plagiarism for a while. A few years ago at the start of my extended blogging break, several bloggers were locked in a heated argument over whether one blogger had plagiarized the review of another blogger. I’m not trying to be mysterious by not naming names–I wasn’t involved in any way, the argument didn’t involve bloggers I read regularly. I wonder, do you look for other reviews of books you have read and reviewed on your blog, to see if anyone’s “stolen” your content? I admit, I do not. But honestly, that’s not the sort of plagiarism I had in mind, anyway.
When I decided to start the blog again, I took a look at my dashboard and noticed that two posts of mine in particular got a lot of hits. Both were about short stories; one was about “Tandolfo the Great” by Richard Bausch, and the other was about “The Harvest” by Amy Hempel. In fact, I would sometimes get up to 20 hits a day on the Amy Hempel post. As a former college instructor, I started to wonder about this. I don’t think either of these authors enjoy widespread popularity, except among fans of the short story and aspiring writers…and college instructors, especially those teaching creative writing or Twentieth century American fiction.
The fact the Hempel post got so many hits bothered me so much that I took it down, and I’ve considered taking down the Bausch post as well because it still is one of my top posts. I certainly can’t prove that anyone has plagiarized what I’ve said in either post–nor do I believe anything I’ve said might be worth plagiarizing. But I cannot help but worry, and this whole thing just made me think of blogging on a whole new level. Maybe some of you have already considered this, but given that I write mostly about contemporary fiction that’s not taught in schools, I hadn’t ever given it much thought.
The other thing that made me think about this was a Tweet I saw a few weeks back (From Iris, perhaps? I apologize for not remembering exactly who it was.) about a commenter who had read a review of a book, but then wanted to know, could the blogger explain the book’s theme? This set off all sorts of red flags for me. Here’s what I pictured: student in front of the computer, trying desperately to write a paper that’s due now about a book that he or she hasn’t even bothered to crack the spine on. It made me wonder, are blogs the new CliffsNotes?
A lot of the bloggers I follow read classic literature, and many of them write thoughtful, insightful reviews of the books they read. And I wonder, do any of them (of you, actually) worry that their posts are being fashioned into papers for English (or American) Literature 101? Of course, if it’s happening, I suppose there’s nothing anyone can do. But it still gives me pause.