Perhaps you are aware of the recent kerfluffle over the work of romance novelist Cassie Edwards. Perhaps not. In either case, I will summarize:
As far as I can tell, Cassie Edwards writes romance novels with titles like “Savage Thunder” in which white chicks fall in love with Noble Savages (who are, presumably, thundering), in which characters occasionally speak in large blocks of text about Native American culture and practices, making them Educational. Recently, it came to the attention of the blogosphere that many if not all of these segments had been copied wholesale from other sources, including but not limited to, autobiographies, scholarly texts and an article about ferrets.
Certainly, the easy thing is to be outraged, to condemn the author for apparently having so little regard for her readers that she does not even bother paraphrasing her research into believable dialog. But what if it’s more than that? What if Ms. Edwards wasn’t just being a lazy writer with no regard for ethics or narrative sense, but instead was actually questioning the very nature of what it is to “write”?
Indeed, the juxtaposition of popular fiction and dry scholarship seems almost too odd to be unintentional. Isn’t it just as possible that the work is in fact intended as an elaborate postmodernist prank, made all the more ironic by its use of one of modern fiction’s most unironic forms, the traditional romance novel? With this work, Ms. Edwards is stretching the boundaries of literature by breaking its one remaining taboo: that something you publish as being your writing must actually be “written” by “you”. Perhaps she is saying, “Are they not all the same, the romances about noble savages and the scholarly texts, and the memoirs, and the articles about ferrets? Are they not all part of the Ur-book from which all writing is drawn? Who can truly say where one work ends and another begins?”
National Book Award committee, I’m looking at you.