Given the limited resources in the traditional publishing world, which overlooks scores of emerging writers, it’s outrageous to see a major publisher sink money into a failed author. By “failed author,” I don’t mean an author whose legitimate books didn’t sell; I mean an author who has admitted to plagiarizing and fabricating significant portions of his prior publications, which were recalled, and who had to resign from The New Yorker as a result of his dishonesty less than a year ago.
I mean Jonah Lehrer.
A few days ago, news broke that Simon & Schuster has given Mr. Lehrer a contract for a book. Apparently, even the proposal for the book contains passages that are uncomfortably similar to others’ writings on the same subject.
In my previous post, When Do Plagiarizers and Fabricators Deserve Our Sympathy?, I noted that Mr. Lehrer’s intentional transgressions are unworthy of sympathy. However, there does come a time when the public should forgive and forget. I hardly think we’re at that point with Mr. Lehrer. It hasn’t even been a year since he admitted to the malfeasance, and there are still multiple outstanding issues with his prior work that he has failed to address.
So why is Simon & Schuster taking a risk with Mr. Lehrer? Is this some delusional version of “there’s no such thing as bad press?” Are they trying to distract from the testimony their CEO gave this week in the Department of Justice’s antitrust case alleging the company (and the other major publishers) conspired with Apple to raise prices?
I certainly hope this publicity doesn’t increase sales for Lehrer’s book. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter, because there are good odds the books will be recalled and the customers will be refunded anyway. I, for one, am not ready to forgive Mr. Lehrer. Are you?