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Confessions of a Plagiarist

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Portrait of the "author"
Home page illustration by Danny Jock

By Quentin Rowan

11/30/11

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(page 3)

So I shut the window and told the truth.  I didn't deny anything. Some allegations had been made. Jeremy Duns, an author I admired and had, quite unfairly, asked to blurb the book, was the person who took it to my publisher. They told me what the allegations were and I copped to all of them. It was liberating. My publisher thanked me for not dragging things out any longer, and an hour or so later they sent out a press release stating that  the book contained plagiarized passages and that all booksellers should return their copies. Customers could return their copies for a refund.

I spent most of that day crying. I called my parents and told them. I called my business partners at the bookstore and told them. I called my girlfriend and told her. I called my sponsor and told him.

My parents cried. My girlfriend left our new apartment and never came back. My sponsor said, "The only person who cared about whether you published a spy novel was you. It didn't matter at all to the rest of us. We're just your friends and care about you whatever you do."

People were calling me name I probably deserved to be called, like the worst plagiarist in history, a fake, a fraud, a douche, and a poor dumb bastard. They said I balls of steel and brains of lead, and looked like a fat John Lennon or Carlos the Jackal.

The realization that I was loved already and didn't have to fight to earn that love was mind-boggling. It was quite the opposite of my notion that I had to struggle to show the world I was worthy. As the days went by, however, my sponsor’s words proved to be true: people in my support group, both AA and non-AA, came out of the woodwork to wish me well, to check-in, to take me out to coffee. It was like being a newcomer all over again. The way it makes your heart hurt to see that people genuinely care.

The media and the internet called me names I probably deserved to be called, like the worst plagiarist in history, a fake, a fraud, a douche, and a poor dumb bastard. They said that I had balls of steel and brains of lead, and looked like a fat John Lennon or Carlos the Jackal. One commenter encouraged people to cut off my fingers. Another responded that "snuffing this loser" wouldn't be worth the "wear and tear on my silencer or the bullet." And this one, a favorite: "Odds are I could just hand him the gun and (at this point) he'd do it himself."

Everyone loves a train-wreck.

I was receiving so many phone calls from the press that I had to turn my phone off for a few days. The Wall Street Journal went so far as to write my friends on Facebook (when I still had a Facebook account) and even used an old college friend as bait. Everyone who left messages was very reasonable. Just wanted to chat, off the record, etc. My poor co-workers at the bookstore were especially bombarded. Certainly no one was prepared for that kind of attention. Especially me.

But in the rooms of AA, and among friends and family, people responded with love and concern. I suppose it's easy to see something in black and white if you don't know the individual involved personally. It's easier to make moral pronouncements rather than see human flaw or human weakness. I was that way before I knew I was an alcoholic. Before I knew this was a disease, I saw myself purely as a screw-up. Morally weak. Perhaps one day plagiarism will be seen, if not as a disease, at least as something pathological.

And it is thanks to the rooms of AA that I am still here, on my feet, on a different coast, starting my life over at 35. I guess it begins with a confessional on The Fix.

So here I am, ready to dodge bullets from the folks in the comments section. Fire away.

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