So the New York Times informs us that a brilliant young German author, 17-year-old Helene Hegemann, is shooting to the top of the German bestseller list with a first novel that includes whole pages lifted, without attribution, from another book. Hegemann's literary pilfering, spotted by an alert blogger, drew criticism from the German media, but hasn't prevented young Helene's book from being nominated for a $20,000 literary prize and, if anything, has goosed her sales. Hegemann apologized (sort of) for not being more forthcoming about her "sources." But she claims her critics don't understand the culture of her generation, which was raised on sampling, mixing and matching, borrowing "inspiration" where they find it. As she sees it, "There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity."
It seems to me that fundamental requirement for any book's authenticity is that the person whose name appears on the cover actually wrote it--all of it. Maybe I'm being old school about this, but plagiarism is plagiarism. If any of my creative writing students at Tulane "mixed and matched" other people's work into their papers, I would give them an F and send them to the Dean for disciplinary action. Plagiarism is also against the law and punishable as a copyright violation. But as long as the book sells and this brazen wunderkind continues to collect literary prizes, no one seems to care much about things like honesty and integrity. As Bob Dole famously put it in his 1996 campaign against Bill Clinton: "Where's the outrage?"
[See the NYT article online: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/world/europe/12germany.html?scp=1&sq=plagiarism&st=cse]