I was pointed in e-mail to this article by Quentin Rowan, the fellow who released a debut thriller novel that was widely praised for its skill in storytelling — possibly because much of it had been plagiarized from other authors. The resulting mess of that discovery was impressive. Likewise, Mr. Rowan is a bit of a hot mess himself, as the article he writes details, and in which he tries to explain why he decided to rip off so many other writers. The article is on a site tailored to people in recovery for addictive substances, so it’s heavy on recovery speak, twelve-stepping and AA gushing (Rowan is a member); it also fronts the idea that Rowan’s choice to plagiarize might have been something akin to an addiction of its own. He writes, “Perhaps one day plagiarism will be seen, if not as a disease, at least as something pathological.”
Yeeeeeeeeah. I understand the appeal of pathologizing plagiarism, since then it holds out some sliver of hope that one is not in one’s self entirely at fault for one’s bad impulses in that area. But I’m deeply skeptical of that particular line of suggestion. I’m willing to believe Rowan’s messed up and that the plagiarism was in part a manifestation of his particular goodie bag of neuroses, which apparently include low self-esteem coupled with a desire for recognition. But I am loath to put the manifestation cart before the neurosis horse. I suspect a simpler explanation is more fruitful: Rowan, wanting to be a published writer, nicked and tucked because he thought it was easier than coming up with the stuff in his own head. Ultimately I suspect it would have just been easier to learn how to write.
In any event, check out the article see if it holds any water for you. In the end I think Rowan’s still trying to rationalize doing an appallingly stupid thing, in a friendly venue, using language that is intended to make him look sympathetic (or failing that, just pathetic). The writing is ironically not entirely without skill, but to me not convincing. Maybe you’ll feel differently.