I’ve been reading Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot, recommended by my friend/editor/teacher Sharon. The title, of course, is a double entendre as is its book-withn-a-book, Crib.
One of the characters confides she’s the type who, five minutes into a movie, figures out the plot. Mind racing ahead, I often do the same. Unlike her character, I generally keep it to myself until the show is over.
The same technique may work on The Plot. The author plays fair sprinkling numerous clues. By the halfway point, I grew certain where the story was headed, and every passing page convinces me I’m on the right track. We shall see.
Korelitz raises issues about plagiarism and ‘stealing’ stories. Her protagonist agonizes the unique plot of his bestseller was glommed from someone who managed to get himself killed, although characters and setting and words are all the author’s. The plot, however, is so unusual, it defies categorization within the seven basic plot lines we constantly hear about. Hence the accusation of stealing from a dead man who, it turns out, acquired the plot elsewhere. In today’s tender sensitivities atmosphere, the protagonist committed the ultimate appropriation sin.
Korelitz’s beset author isn’t in the same league as a half dozen infamous authors she mentions who either plagiarized or falsified narratives. Some such as James Frey and Greg Mortenson bounced back, barely affected, and to a lesser degree, Stephen Glass at least arrested his descent into infamy.
Jerzy Kosiński (The Painted Bird) is a different matter for me. Like Herman Rosenblat (Angel at the Fence), he was a Polish WW-II survivor. Also like Rosenblat, he combined fiction with reality, sometimes difficult to tell which was which. It would be fairer to describe their books as embellished memoirs or fictionalized biographies.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, among others, believes the taint of scandal brought about Kosiński’s death. His suicide note read, “I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual.”
Occasionally writers who falsify (e.g, Helen Darville a.k.a Helen Demidenko) or plagiarize (e.g, Helene Hegemann) are rewarded for their deceit. How they win prizes after their false narratives are exposed and Laura Ingalls Wilder falls victim to #CancelCulture escapes me.
The Hitler Diaries took hubris, but Konrad Kujau was pretty certain Adolf wasn’t likely to pop up in Buenos Aires, Brasília, or São Paulo and say, “Hallo? Entschuldigung…”
For sheer audacity, it’s hard to beat Clifford Irving, because Howard Hughes, as far as anyone knew, was very much alive. And he did indeed pop up in Acapulco or Houston or somewhere and say, “Hello? Excuse me,” not that anyone believed him at first. And then… And then after he wrote a 1981 explication called The Hoax, Irving sued the movie company because the resulting film was too, well, hoaxy. Damn, that took nerve.
Please excuse me. I must return to writing my fictionalized memoir. Kindly ignore any perceived exaggerations, embellishments, or inconsistencies you may notice about my life amongst the Goajira and Yaqui…