Monday, July 30, 2012

New Yorker writer resigns after making up Dylan quotes

And, of course, getting caught doing so. The Post has the AP story:

A staff writer for The New Yorker has resigned and his latest book has been halted after he acknowledged inventing quotes by Bob Dylan.

Jonah Lehrer released a statement Monday through his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, saying that some Dylan quotes appearing in his book "Imagine: How Creativity Works" did "not exist." Others were "unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes."
How creativity works. New York mag has more, with links (the website for Tablet magazine, which broke the story, is currently crushed). Basically Lehrer got caught because he'd just got caught plagiarizing himself in earlier New Yorker pieces. He then tried to lie out of it by claiming he'd gotten the Dylan quotes from unreleased hunks of Martin Scorcese's doco on same.

Yeah, big deal, another young writer a little too eager for whatever it is young writers are eager for (books, a handsome desk, tweed jacket with elbow patches--stuff like that, I'd imagine). But this was odd. AP says,

Among Lehrer's inventions was a quote that first appeared in the famous documentary from the mid-1960s, "Don't Look Back," in which Dylan tells a reporter about his songs that "I just write them. There's no great message." In "Imagine," Lehrer adds a third sentence—"Stop asking me to explain"—that does not appear in the film.

I've looked several places--a Times blog, Forbes, Huffpo--and that's the only fake quote quoted: "Stop asking me to explain." (The Tablet probably has more, but, again: crushed.) Why did Lehrer add that? What does he think it adds? A tiny look at possible Dylan peevishness? Seems like a lot of risk for such a small character revelation. Hell, if you're gonna make up quotes, why not go for the wow? "I just write them. There's no great message. Elvis sucks cocks in Hell."

On the other hand why, if there are punchier made-up quotes quoted in the Tablet piece, did AP use that one? I mean, "Stop asking me to explain" over "Elvis sucks cocks in Hell"? Are there no editors any more?

Update: Have just been informed that young writers do not lust for desks or elbow patches or such nonsense, but for other things, IYKWIMAITYD.

Update II: Just noticed that Huffpo posted some tweets of readers' suggested fake Dylan quotes. "Elvis sucks cocks in Hell" holds up rather well.

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