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    « E-Panel: November Literary Journal Editor | Main | Best of 2005? Already? »

    December 05, 2005



    I agree with everything you say, Dan, and admire the amount of time you spent on this -- though I must say, it seems to me that it's like using a nuclear weapon to kill someone who himself has used a semiautomatic rifle to kill a butterfly.


    I've been following this story with the interest of someone who feels that urge to say something but also feels like so much of puzzle is missing. In this case, each time, I've given the issue a pass. Sure, plagiarists tend toward recidivism, but what does that mean really.

    Your analysis raises a serious question -- when a sentence is redacted, it's easier to draw a straight line between works. The cited passages have a different feel in their entirety.

    steven gillis

    thanks for presenting this piece, dan. I had not been aware of this particular incident though such has come to light all to frequently of late among authors. (Why is it Susan Sontag not only got to slide on her obvious plagerism on her last novel, but her work was awarded many prizes?) If Brad Vice did as claimed, then shame on him and he should be dealt with severely. If such is simply a witch hunt - for whatever reason - then these false claims must also be addressed in order to restore Mr. Vice's rep. There is no worse sin for a writer to commit than plagerism. I feel all but obligated now to take a look at what has been written on this matter and see whatever truth there is to draw. Thanks again Dan, for presenting this material. Steve

    Leah Stewart

    I should say for the record that I'm a friend of Brad's, and was a Sewanee staffer for 10 summers, and that Brad and I share an agent, whom we both met at Sewanee. So I'm one of the Sewanee insiders Young so despises.

    I was at Sewanee in 2001, when Young attended as a fellow, and I was in his workshop, co-taught by Barry Hannah and Margot Livesey. I don't even begin to recognize the version of Sewanee Young paints, and I can't help but feel that that description, and his vendetta against Brad Vice, are colored by the fact that his work was poorly received at the conference, both in the workshop and at the reading he gave. Clearly he chose to see this reception as part of a conspiracy, a conspiracy led by Barry Hannah, a conspiracy of which Brad is an integral part. Thus the description of Barry as an ailing Godfather and Brad as his consigliere. I have no idea what he means by the latter (as far as I know, Brad is not Barry's "adviser"). As for the former assertion, Barry is incredibly generous to young writers, and it's infuriating to see Young pervert that generosity into a power trip. He seems to be accusing Barry of responding to sycophancy with various rewards. In actual fact, Barry pulls no punches in his criticism, as I can attest; if you're on the receiving end of it, perhaps it's easier to imagine that it's because you're not his "consigliere," not because he found fault with your work.

    There are a number of factual errors in Young's piece, which might be minor but which, in accretion, point to Young's sloppy reporting. Richard Bausch and Brad Vice were never at the conference at the same time, for example. The conference takes place in July, not in August. The cemetery in Sewanee is not a Confederate war cemetery. Many of the regular faculty members are not from the South (Margot Livesey, Claire Messud, Francine Prose, Diane Johnson, Alice McDermott, Mark Strand, and John Hollander among others). As Dan points out, faculty at Sewanee do not nominate for New Stories from the South, which has no nomination process that I know of, but for Best New American Voices. Not only do faculty members not meet to determine who will get scholarships to the conference the next year, they don't even make those decisions. Certainly they may be asked later for letters of recommendation. They choose whether or not to write such letters on a purely individual basis, just as they make decisions about blurbs, nominations, and so forth. Who else would you go to for a letter or a blurb, besides someone who's read your work?

    I also want to mention that a few days ago I received an email from "Rodney King" with the subject heading "check out what your buddy Brad's been up to" and nothing but a link to the NY Press story. I have no idea whether this was generated by Young or someone who takes his part, but either way it suggests that this piece is less objective journalism than part of a smear campaign, motivated less by righteous indignation over accusations of plagiarism than by a feeling that Brad has unfairly gotten things that others have not, and now there's an opening to take him down (and the vast Sewanee conspiracy with him).

    David Milofsky

    This seems to be devolving into questions of Young's character/paranoia rather than simply looking at the record. Did Vice plagiarize or not? Whether or not Young is a fine fellow should have no bearing on that and neither should Vice's apparently fine connections. So, Dan, you're on top of this, what are the facts of the matter?

    Dan Wickett

    I think I stated what I believe. I think Vice at the very least screwed up big on the story Tuscaloosa Knights. I am not a man of letters, my degree is in Statistics, and do not know exactly what constitutes Fair Usage and all of that which when I read of it at sites like storySouth, I got more and more confused.

    But, again, I think Vice screwed up quite a bit with that story in the way he allowed it to be published. That's the best case scenario.

    In the case of Report to Junction - I'm going to agree with the editor of the story and state I don't find the similarities in the four examples given to be plagiarism.

    I understand why UGA Press pulped the collection.

    If Vice can properly explain to the MSU committee the surroundings to Tuscaloosa Knights, I think he should keep his job.

    David Milofsky

    What about Young's allegation that Vice also plagiarized his Phd thesis at Cincinnati? Anything new on that?

    Dan Wickett

    In regards to Tuscaloosa Knights - there is an epigraph from Carmer's work just before the story's title page. Again, I'm not versed enough in the legal jargon for plagiarism. It still seems to me that more of an acknowledgement should have been made.

    The lines from Report from Junction were probably even less similar in the dissertation than they are in the final version.

    David Milofsky

    I'm conversant with the rules for plagiarism, having served on such committees for years. No doubt in my mind Vice is guilty of it, whether he included an epigram or not. This whole business of homage might work in cinematic circles, but academic rules regarding this kind of thing are pretty straightforward. Assuming that he actually borrowed significant amounts of the story from Carmer. The fact that Georgia cancelled pub tells you a lot. I'm pretty sure they understand what "fair use" means in the copyright law. This says little about Vice's intentions, however, or whether or not his university will give him a second chance. The argument that everyone would of course have recogized the story strikes me as being impossibly lame. I never heard of either Carmer or Vice until this blew up. But I'd hate to see a promising young writer and professor ruined over something like this, so I'm inclined to put a benign interpretation on the whole thing and say it was just an error in judgement. In that case, he should throw himself on the mercy of the court instead of making excuses. At least that's my view from long distance and reading your posts.

    Rachel Solomon

    As a longtime freelance writer, I have to side with Robert Clark Young on this. It is utterly inconceivable to me how somebody like Brad Vice could have conveniently "forgot" to cite Carl Carmer; even if the quotations Mr. Vice used were used as "homage," to obviate any scrutiny of his motives, he should have had the sense to cite the source.

    He didn't. His book has been, in my opinion, fairly scrapped. UGA Press certainly doesn't have the funds to withstand a lawsuit.

    As far as I know, plagiarism in the academy is the highest offense, short of sleeping with your own students. It is, therefore, within the bounds of academic jurisprudence that Mr. Vice's dissertation be examined, and to determine if and to what extent it contains plagiarized material.

    There is something inherently tragic in all this: Mr. Vice was indeed given a lot of breaks, and at 31, already had a teaching career and a prize-winning collection of short stories that was probably going to attract a lot of attention.

    Still, though I hate to see people glorying in another person's downfall, the fault clearly lies with Mr. Vice, and not with people like Mr. Young, who, though prone to some heavy rhetoric at times, nevertheless, presents the facts.

    David Milofsky

    Rachel has it exactly right except for the fact that in the academy plagiarism is probably considered more serious than sleeping with one's students, heinous as that would be. Plagiarism strikes at the heart of scholarly research and people routinely lose their jobs if it's proved. The bottom line is that Vice should have known this and acknowledged his sources. Young may be in this for personal reasons but if his information is accurate he's right and Vice is wrong. Remember no one liked Whitaker Chambers either.

    Dan Wickett

    Again David, I nod in your direction as to what is plagiarism and what is not - I don't know if you've only read the specific sentences from Report From Junction in my post, or elsewhere - what would you say about this second example?

    I believe I know where you stand on the first issue - Tuscaloosa Knights. As I've stated before, I do not disagree with your opinion.

    As to the dissertation, one of the advisors listed on the dissertation cover has copied the letter she has sent to MSU and the committee reviewing Vice over at storySouth (in Jason Sanford's Literary Lynching of Brad Vice post).

    In this letter, she pretty cleary mentions having spoken to Brad at length back at the time that he was writing the stories about how he planned on embedding sections of Carmer's texts into the story.

    I still believe I agree more with you in this instance, and that Vice should not have published the story as it stands without any acknowledgements, but can he possibly lose his PhD when an advisor puts in writing that it was known at the time what he was doing with that particular story?

    As to Rachel's last line ( ... nevertheless, presents the facts.) and your second to last line (...if his information is accurate he's right and Vice is wrong.), well, I think my post and Leah Stewart's follow up allow you what I think of Mr. Young and the word facts.

    Dan Wickett

    And Don Imus loved Whittaker Chambers! You do mean the biography don't you?

    David Milofsky

    Actually, I was referring to the Chambers/Hiss case in which people sided with Hiss originally because he was aristocratic and had an Ivy League education. All assumed Chambers was lying because he was fat, had bad teeth and was gay. Turned out, however, that whether he was attractive or not he was telling the truth about the so-called Pumpkin papers or so says Allen Weinstein in his book. Pretty interesting about vice's dissertation advisor. If you're right, I agree that they can't really take away what they knowingly approved in the first place.

    P.M. Cormano

    I don't really understand the comparison of Young to Chambers . . . Chambers' grotesque appearance may have impacted the public's perpection of his honesty, but it surely had nothing to do with his ability or inclination to tell the truth . . . whereas Young's personal motives are clearly capable of influencing every aspect of his argument . . . and are thus a very relevant part of this discussion, especially given that his NY Press piece is, at the moment, the article of record on the subject.

    I'm also bothered by the reduction of the plagiarism question to yes/no, as if there were no variance in degree . . . unless the plagiarist shows an intent to deceive, plagiarism is a crime of oversight (or carelessness), not theft. This distinction might be immaterial to an academic institution or court of law, but it is certainly pertinent to the public perception of the accused plagiarist . . . and the vicious ad hominem attacks on Vice, made by Young and others, portray him as an outright thief, a plagiarist in the first degree . . . despite evidence that shows that he made no effort to conceal the relationship of his work to Carmer's, and had, in fact, allowed his work to be published side by side with Carmer's earlier this year. Young, by the way, was doubtlessly aware of this last bit of information --- he was posting fervently on the Story South blog on which it appeared --- and chose not to include it in his article.

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