Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Curious Case of Plagiarism

I was looking at vintage book covers on the net and came across Fires of Youth (1968) by James Lincoln Collier. The cover is titillating for the time it was published, the naked woman posing in a bottle, as if manufactured and ready to be consumed. But I was also intrigued by the subtitle, “With a forward by Robert Lusty about a curious case of plagiarism.” So I did a little research and it is indeed quite curious.

In 1962 Arthur Koestler announced that the newly founded “Koestler Prize” of 400 pounds would be awarded to an inmate for his contribution to art, music and literature (yes, you read that right). The British government endorsed the project, and a manuscript entitled Young and Sensitive by Dartmoor inmate Don Robson was awarded the first ever Koestler Prize.

Hutchinson & Co published Young and Sensitive in 1964, and launched a promotional campaign centered on Robson winning the Koestler Prize. The book was received to great critical praise. The Sunday Telegraph called it “a work of outstanding merit.” An Observer reviewer wrote that it was “the best account of an adolescent affair I have ever read.” Vogue described it as one of the “most poignantly written novels.” And Mordecai Richler, in The Spectator, stated that it was “a work of outstanding merit… [and] strongly reminiscent of the best of Sherwood Anderson.” The author, Don Robson, finished his jail sentence and then got married. He even appeared on television doing interviews about the book.

A year later, an unnamed man checked out a copy of Young and Sensitive at a library. This man realized that he had read the story before. He had indeed read Fires of Youth by Charles Williams, and noticed that it was, with only a few discrepancies, the same book. He informed the publisher by letter. The Robson book was, without a doubt, a plagiarism. The publisher pulled the planned paperback, and attempted to find the original author, Charles Williams, without success. Don Robson never tried to deny his guilt and returned the prize money. His story was that he bought the manuscript from an inmate for fifteen ounces of tobacco. The publisher released a statement explaining the fraud and gave notice that the book would be pulled from circulation. Robson was never prosecuted.

The New York Times picked up the story of the on-going search for Charles Williams. The American publisher Magnet hadn’t been in business since 1960 and had also gone AWOL. That is when a New York writer named James Lincoln Collier contacted Hutchinson & Co. He told them he had written the novel and sold it to Magnet under the pseudonym Charles Williams.

Penguin, in 1968, published the first British paperback edition of Fires of Youth (the cover pictured above). It was the third time the book was published, but the first time published with the correct author’s name printed on the cover. James Lincoln Collier went on to write over twenty books. My Brother Sam is Dead won the Newbery Honor and was nominated for a National Book Award. I always find it interesting how we, as an individual or culture, assign value to literature, and this story leaves me with many feelings of contradiction and compunction. Why is it that the original American version received no attention or acclaim? Was it that an award was given to an unlikely source of literary merit, which in turn created the sense of value? I’m curious to see what the reviews were like after the third publication came out. In any case, it makes an interesting, and yes, curious, study of how books are published and perceived.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Author Insults

Authors can be cruel to each other but it sure is funny! Check out this post for a laugh: http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history

My favorites are:

21. Lord Byron on John Keats (1820)
“Here are Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.”

9. Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

6. W. H. Auden on Robert Browning
“I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”

4. Mark Twain on Jane Austen (1898)
“I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Typography Humour

I found this on the net and find it immensely funny, although I suppose that makes me a nerd.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Poems and Fiction of Place

Yvonne Blomer
Anne McDonald
Cynthia Woodman Kerkham

TUESDAY JUNE 21st, 7:30 pm at CAFE MONTMARTRE (4362 Main Street, Vancouver B.C.). The food and drinks are excellent at Cafe Montmartre, bring cash as they don’t accept cards of any kind!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gunmetal Blue Book Signing

June 14th and 15th, 6-9 pm
Stone Road Mall
435 Stone Road
Guelph, Ontario

Please join us for the LAUNCH of Shane Neilson's NEW book Gunmetal Blue: A Memoir.  He'll also be signing his Trillium Book Award-nominated Complete Physical (Porcupine's Quill).

Gunmetal Blue is an investigation of how to be in the world—how to be a doctor, how to be a poet, and how to be both. Tempered with memoir and populated with poetic case studies, Neilson learns about himself as his patients reveal their frailties. Medicine might be considered the more productive activity by society, but Neilson found poetry in every office visit. Taught to research clinical questions, he took this scientific practice and made it a literary one: how can a doctor better know his patients, and how does this translate into self-knowledge? Poetry and medicine are topics intertwined since the time of the Greeks and, in this case, the connection between the two literally becomes his lifeline.

Shane Neilson is a physician who practices Family Medicine in Erin, ON. He has published two poetry collections, Mensicus and Complete Physical, which was recently nominated for a Trillium Book Award. In 2010 he won Arc's Poem of The Year contest. Gunmetal Blue is his second nonfiction book, his first being a collection of essays entitled Call Me Doctor.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chiropractic Logo Design

Kingsville Chiropractic Clinic wanted a logo with mark that was professional and classic in feel while also demonstrating its natural approach to health. The client also indicated that he didn’t want it to be excessively serious, as he has a friendly personal relationship with his patients, and yet not too quirky since he is held in a position of authority.

During my research I came across a quote: “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” The chiropractor later told me that this was a quote most chiropractors are familiar with. This quote became the inspiration for me to create a graphic that used a tree trunk to depict a spine. Above is a singular leaf. The tree speaks to a holistic approach to health, while the leaf above the text indicates protection. The text is done in a modern sans-serif humanist font. The script font at the bottom gives the logo a more casual feel and the grass line has a grounding effect while bringing everything together.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Letterpress Wedding Announcements


I have been doing letterpress periodically for a few years in my basement laundry room on a tabletop unit. Since I've moved into this studio space, I've set up a full sized Gordon press. This is my first job on the Gordon and I love it! The wedding announcements in silver ink with red blossoms are pictured here drying on type drawers.