Friday, July 20, 2007


For anyone interesting in protecting words, here's a great book: WORDS FOR THE TAKING: THE HUNT FOR A PLAGIARIST by Neal Bowers.

Neal Bowers has published three volumes of poetry (most recently Night Vision), two scholarly books, and a nonfiction memoir, Words for the Taking: The Hunt for a Plagiarist. His poems and essays have appeared in Harper's, Hudson Review, The New Yorker, Poetry, Sewanee Review, and other journals. He lives in Ames, Iowa with his wife, Nancy (also a writer), and their five cats.
In Words for the Taking author Neal Bowers takes the reader on an unusual hunt for a literary stalker. A poet and teacher by profession, Bowers became a detective out of necessity when he discovered one of his poems had been plagiarized and repeatedly published by someone calling himself David Sumner. Later, he learned Sumner had stolen more of his work and the poems of other writers as well. Here he describes his almost surreal search for the plagiarist and its surprising aftermath.

For Neal Bowers, David Sumner--a.k.a. David Jones--became an almost mythic adversary, and Bowers's quest for justice a kind of heroic quest. The character of the plagiarist is at the heart of this story: who was "David Sumner" and why did he steal another man's words? The answers to these questions prove as troubling as they are startling.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1991 Bowers, an obscure poet, discovers that someone is stealing his work from the pages of Poetry magazine and republishing it in smaller journals across the country. Terrified that posterity will confuse him with the thief, he writes letters to dozens of poetry journal editors, retains a lawyer, even hires a private eye. After a long search, the detective identifies the plagiarist, an ex-con and one-time school teacher from Oregon, who strikes up a correspondence with the poet, even writes a letter to Bowers's wife. Bowers finds himself lifted out of obscurity, when the New York Times reprints his American Scholar essay on the ordeal. By the finale of this book he's famous?because of a plagiarist he never met and a few stolen poems that few will likely ever read. Imagine Pale Fire as written by Kinbote, or The Trial written by K., and you'll have a sense of Bowers's weakness as a narrator: he's too aggrieved to see his story's irony. And he never explains why he is bitter at what others consider a kooky kind of flattery. Bowers's tendency to cast himself as the guardian of the Text seems misguided. In the end it's the sheer bathos of the narrator's obsession?not his (quite competent) poems or (less competent) reflections on the state of American scholarship?that lends the book its chief interest and charm.
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