Home / General / “I Want to Create A National Epidemic of People Barfing Into Recycling Bins After Reading the First Chapter. Then They Will Know What Love Is.”

“I Want to Create A National Epidemic of People Barfing Into Recycling Bins After Reading the First Chapter. Then They Will Know What Love Is.”


Even leaving aside the ethical issues, rarely has a book proposal without “Camille Paglia” in the author’s slot seemed so unreadable:

Jonah Lehrer, the disgraced writer who resigned from The New Yorker after he was discovered plagiarizing and fabricating material, has sold a book to Simon & Schuster that uses his journalistic misconduct as a case study of the mysterious and redeeming power of love.


In a 65-page book proposal obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Lehrer described the day last summer — a “muggy Sunday morning in St. Louis” — when his journalistic fraud was discovered.

“I feel the shiver of a voice mail message,” he wrote in the proposal, “A Book About Love.” “I listen to the message. I have been found out. I puke into a recycling bin. And then I start to cry. Why was I crying? I had been caught in a lie, a desperate attempt to conceal my mistakes. And now it was clear that, within 24 hours, my fall would begin. I would lose my job and my reputation. My private shame would become public.”

Few forms of love are as mysterious and yet redeeming, I believe we can all agree, as the love that comes in the form of a dumptruck of money unloaded outside your front door after someone has agreed to publish your shitty book even after your previous shitty book had been revealed to have a lot of made-up stuff in it in addition to all of the erroneous and inane stuff.

Admittedly, the book may offer the opportunity for various fun quizzes. Such as, “Well-compensated author, or eight-year-old poet instantly embarrassed to see what he has written?”

“Here is the simple thesis of this book,” the proposal says: “Love is the only happiness that lasts. It is the opposite of underwear. It is the antithesis of chocolate cake.”

Deep, man. Love is also totally the polar opposite of spray-on tans; that stuff washes off. Bourbon is sort of a gray area.

The book proposal also seems to, at the very least, come close to plagiarism at some point. Even granting that one is a serious ethical issue and the other isn’t necessarily, in this specific case I would recommend less self-plagiarism and more plagiarism of others.

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  • Hogan

    ” . . . we give away what we don’t want and sell what we can’t afford,” he wrote. “And yet, if we are lucky, such losses reveal what remains. …”

    Dear Simon & Schuster,

    Those are not, in fact, examples of loss. Good luck with your shitty book.

    • Ann Outhouse

      They are, however, examples of tedious, overwrought, amateurish prose.

      • Vance Maverick

        It may be bad in every way, but it’s nothing if not professional.

        • firefall

          so ….. its nothing

    • bspencer

      Phbbht. Next you’ll be telling me that rain on my wedding day is not an example of irony.

      • Vance Maverick

        Have we fought this one out on LGM? Recently?

        FWIW, I take the line that rain on one’s wedding day is a sort of dramatic irony — that is, one can imagine a dramaturge who’s intending a bitter joke by arranging the bad weather for the auspicious event.

        • sparks

          It’s ironic you should say that.

      • Bruce Baugh

        Like an Alanis Morrisette song on your wedding day.

    • SV

      Yes, of course losing/giving away things DEMONSTRATES WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT. Basically, EVERYTHING ELSE.

    • Charlie

      Look if I were the acquistions editor here, or just the agent, I would snap this up. The book will obviously a magnet for many hate-filled reviews across every known major publication, and schadenfreude alone would easily net 200k in sales within weeks, justifying that fat advance no problem.

    • Hogan

      Oh, and can I just say–there has never been a non-muggy Sunday morning in St. Louis. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO BE MORE SPECIFIC.

  • DocAmazing

    In Lehrer’s case, if plagiarizing the work of others means that he is generating less of his own prose, I’m prepared to overlook it.

  • Anonymous

    Rhodes Scholar Jonah Lehrer. All I’m saying.

  • Malaclypse

    “Love is the only happiness that lasts. It is the opposite of underwear. It is the antithesis of chocolate cake.”

    Somewhere, both Jonah Goldberg and Jim Hoft are reading those sentences, and congratulating themselves for, finally, not writing the stupidest thing on the internet.

    • DocAmazing

      Lehrer probably thinks “allegory” is like a crocodile, but with a broader snout.

    • Everyone knows the antithesis of chocolate cake is vanilla pudding. Dur.

      • Ann Outhouse

        I’m stuck on “opposite of underwear”. What’s the opposite of underwear? Anyone know?

        • Scott Lemieux

          My understanding is that the subtitle of this book will be “Going Commando.”

          • Now we’re all wondering what this guy is doing to his underwear.

            No? Only me?

        • Overwear?

          • Bill Murray

            I was thinking coats and/or galoshes

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            What’s the opposite of underwear? Anyone know?

            From a functional perspective I gotta go with sweat glands.

          • It’s worn on the outside, so we can check.

            • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

              And all children under sixteen years old …. are now sixteen years old.

        • Cheap Wino


        • wjts

          Outerwear would have been my first guess, but apparently not.

        • UserGoogol

          The opposite of underwear is obviously hats.

          • Lee Rudolph

            So what did the man mistake his underwear for?

            • Immanuel Kant


        • agorabum

          Going Commando.
          As in “The only thing between him and us is a thin layer of gabardine…”

      • Malaclypse

        Everyone knows the antithesis of chocolate cake is vanilla pudding.

        See, I was going to say blueberry pie, because as discussed in the last thread, pie > cake, and blueberry pie > other, lesser pies.

        • You me “as baselessly and incorrectly propagandized by Mal and other folks destined for reeducation camps in Vermont.”

          You are correct Jon your adulation of the pie blueberryesque, but your love of Robert Byrd blinds you to the rest.

    • laura

      Jonah G is probably especially happy since Jonah L is (I assume) a liberal and is about to confirm the tyranny of cliches a million times over.

    • Walt

      I keep hearing this in the voice of Donald Glover, aka Troy Barnes. “You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth. You are the opposite of Batman.”

    • SV

      “Love is the only happiness that lasts. It is the opposite of underwear. It is the antithesis of chocolate cake. It is the emperor of icecream.

  • Love always lasts, huh? Then why did I give up on *mumbletymumble* when they totally SOLD OUT, MAN?

    • Malaclypse

      You know, I want to be all emo and yell “No! Everybody dies! Love dies! There is no Sky Faerie! Grow the fuck up, and realize you will die, alone, like everybody does!”

  • Suddenly this gig feels completely justified.

  • BTW, I am in love with this post’s title. That love is one that will surely last forever.

    • Scott Lemieux

      LGM: NOT LIKE UNDERWEAR. Enduring, like a cockroach or a Ding Dong.

      • I’m not making that t-shirt.

        • DocAmazing

          No, that belongs on a thong.

          • LOL

          • PhoenixRising

            Or a trucker hat. Or both, so that you can wear these opposites, risking the prospect of creating a black hole at the synthesis of matter and anti-…oh the hell with it, I’m laughing too hard to type right.

            The opposite of underwear? Lemieux, are you making this up?

      • Tyto

        Sadly, Hostess did not endure…

        • Carol

          Yeah but I have a box of Ding Dongs from 1999 that proves that Ding Dongs are forever

      • Damn, Scott just won his own thread.

  • DocAmazing

    What Lehrer fails to address is the fate of the people whose job it is to collect the recycling.

  • Cheap Wino

    Bourbon is sort of a gray area.

    Well, more like a brown area. Delicious. . . bourbon, brownest of the brown liquors. . . so tempting!

    • janastas359

      Hello, David?

      • ScrewyCanuck

        Just take it one day at a time, and know that I love you….

  • kgus

    Good God! You’re supposed to puke into garbage bins, not recycle bins. What kind of monster is he?

    • Ann Outhouse

      You have to appreciate the symbolism, though, considering he made his career “recycling” other people’s work.

      • BigHank53

        I shudder to think what happened to the contents of the recycling bin. Waste not, want not.

      • herr doktor bimler

        I shudder to think what happened to the contents of the recycling bin.

        Simon and Schuster paid an advance for it.

        • bspencer

          You’re thinking of Regnery.

          • Pseudonym

            No, see, Simon and Schuster paying for recycled puke is news. Regnery paying for recycled puke is dog biting man.

            • bspencer


      • herr doktor bimler

        Via Slate, more on the recycling within the book proposal of other people’s work and his own previous efforts.

        • Pierre Menard

          Memo to self: Check links in original post before commenting.

        • ChrisTS

          Incredible. It may very well be pathological.

    • Patrick

      Yard waste. That’s stuff is compostable, don’t you know.

    • Rudyard Kipling

      The Dog recycles his Vomit.

  • Manta

    The point of the book is that plagiarism better than original prose.

    • homemade

      Clearly it’s more profitable.

  • laura

    Love isn’t only a verb like a bunch of bands claimed in the 90s. It’s also a noun, and it can be an adjective, like “the love bug”. Love lasts and if it does it’s your last love. Can I get some money too?

  • Erik Loomis

    A 65 page book proposal? Why?

    • comptr0ller

      I interpreted this to mean the book was 65 pages long.

      • Ann Outhouse

        Standard industry practice is a 2-3 page synopsis and 2-3 sample chapters. I’m guessing that’s what this means. I doubt Lehrer has the cachet to get an advance based on a synopsis or pitch meeting alone.

        • PhoenixRising

          Yeah, but the implication is that 3 sample chapters were each 20 pages long. And 250 pages, if the excerpt above is indicative of their quality, could cause night blindness and hairy palms in an otherwise healthy individual.

          This is a prank.

    • BigHank53

      Maybe if the book was titled How to Profit Through Tenditiousness, which looks like it might be a good subtitle for everything Jonah Lehrer writes, ever.

    • Vance Maverick

      Lehrer is a graphomaniac. When he felt like emitting this…thing to the publisher, 65 pages is just what he had.

  • Elijah Craig

    What’s this about bourbon being a gray area?

    • Ezra Williams

      The boy ain’t doin it right.

  • Ann Outhouse

    Back when I was in the book biz in the 70s, the big NY houses loved to pump out this narcissistic faux-redemption drama queen dribble penned by some disgraced upper-West-Side cocktail circuit weenie or another that no one outside their social set heard of or cares about. All of it went straight to the remainder bin back then, but it was a way to help out their unemployed writer friends with some nice advance money that should have gone to more deserving writers.

    Obviously, the culture has not changed one bit. E-book self-publishing can’t put these fuckers out of business soon enough, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Slocum

    What the fuck does this mean? “I feel the shiver of a voice mail message,”

    Now we know why he resorted to plagiarism.

    • comptr0ller

      Initial thought was that this meant the vibration of a cellphone in his pocket, but a deeper investigation revealed that he uses a Tina Turner ringtone.

      • Slocum

        My phone vibrates when I get a call, not when I get a message. Never heard of such a thing and therefore it must not exist.

        • jeer9

          Linguistic ambiguities and conundrums are best resolved by consulting Colin McGinn’s Guide to Speech Acts: The Jobs of Ordinary and Extraordinary Talk.

          • Slocum

            He’s quite, uh, handy, with them, yes.


            • ChrisTS


              • ChrisTS


                I do not know if any of the LGM bloggers are philosophers, but the McGinn mess is so ripe for LGM exploration that I am sad to see that they are missing it.

                • FeministPhilosophets, NewAPPS, and Faux Phil News are on the case!

                  There’s also a hilarious twitter feed which we think is a hoax.

                • Rudyard Kipling

                  A few links away in some direction or other,

                  The student, who asked to remain anonymous because she is planning to pursue a career in philosophy […].

                  C’mon, grrrl, it’s not that shameful a career.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Specifically, the quoted matter appears (itself quoted from behind some paywall) on Brian Leiter’s blog, utterly confuting Uncle Rudyard’s claims about non-shamefulness.

                • ChrisTS


                  Yes, I especially like #colinmcginnshands.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      He left his phone in the freezer maybe?

    • Ann Outhouse

      It’s like he wants to win the Bulwer-Lytton prize.

      • sparks

        For some, notoriety is just as good as fame.

  • herr doktor bimler

    Love is also totally the polar opposite of spray-on tans
    N__B may well have some views on this.

    • For polar bears, people with spray-on tans are like stir-fry covered with PAM. Not much effect on the taste if the meat, but disgusting to contemplate. More like the opposite of mouthwatering than the opposite of love.

      • BigHank53

        Hunger, as always, is the best sauce.

  • Malaclypse

    Dear Simon and Schuster Forum,

    I never thought I’d be writing to you, but then one day I found myself vomiting into a recycling bin. This taught me things about the art of love best left unwritten, but I don’t get paid unless somebody writes something, so here goes…

    • bspencer


  • Pierre Menard

    Dear Simon & Schuster,
    You may be interested in my book proposal…

  • He’s not just “shopping” it to Simon and Schuster with this proposal? They actually read the thing and then BOUGHT the book?

    Holy gaud.

    I say it and I say it (especially when trying to warn clients that they won’t become overnight sensations on the NYT fiction list), but I try not to really believe it until I can’t avoid getting smacked in the face once again with something like this.

    Publishing today is completely, utterly, incomprehensibly Fido Uniform.

    “The opposite of underwear”? “The antithesis of chocolate cake”? How about “the flip side of coherence”?

  • ChrisTS

    “Love is the only happiness that lasts. It is the opposite of underwear. It is the antithesis of chocolate cake.”

    Well that made me feel a definite wave of nausea, so he’s got that talent.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      Agent: I love it. But it needs a little more New Age, Self-help crap if we’re gonna get you on Oprah.

      • ChrisTS

        Agent: Oh, can we get a shot of you crying over the recycling bin?

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          Perfect for the book jacket!

          • ChrisTS

            We should go into business.

  • Froley

    Thesis: love
    Antithesis: chocolate cake
    Synthesis: liberal fascism

    • Origami Isopod

      The chocolate cake is the rugelach of culinary fascism.

  • ChrisTS

    I kind of get the ‘love is the opposite of cake’ thing, because you eat the cake and it’s over with (unless you are an idiot who lets her new mother in law persuade her that she simply must freeze a piece of the wedding cake for the 1st anniversary and then forgets about it for 3 years until the power goes down for a week. But, I don’t to talk about that.)

    But, underwear? I mean, that usually lasts for a while, in my experience. (Unless you accidentally burn it. But I don’t want to talk about that either.)

    So, is he eating his underwear?

    • Gregor Sansa

      Lucky he’s not Hegelian or Marxist. That is one synthesis we can all do without.

      • ChrisTS

        I suppose cotton is a vegetable, of sorts?

        • Milo Minderbinder

          It is your patriotic duty to eat it!

        • fka AWS

          There is edible underwear. You can do your own google on that one.

          • ChrisTS

            Not now that I know about PRISM.

            • BigHank53

              No, you see, the idea is to lose anything really interesting down in the noise. Google anything that strikes your fancy. Just be careful not to commit google seppeku.

              • ChrisTS

                But, how can I be sure that stuff does go to the bottom? Or, do I just rely on the incompetence of the sorters?

    • Maybe he buys really, really cheap underwear?

      I had some once where the waistband started unraveling the first time I washed them.

      A real bargain, yesiree.

    • bspencer

      I got the feeling he just wasn’t very hygienic.

      • Malaclypse

        I just hope that doesn’t imply that “chocolate cake” is a really bad euphemism, rather than a really bad metaphor.

        • ChrisTS


    • rea

      Okay, let’s approach this rigorously, like we’re construing a badly written contract.

      Love is the only happiness that lasts. It is the opposite of underwear. It is the antithesis of chocolate cake.

      Love = happiness that lasts
      chocolate cake = happiness that doesn’t last (he eats his cake rather than having it)
      Therefore, underwear must = lasting unhappiness.

      (Note that chocolate cake is also the opposite of underwear).

      What is this man’s problem with his underwear?

  • Haystack

    I’m gonna stick with the classics.

    • bspencer
    • JMP

      It’s about two naked children who are married.

      • Bettencourt

        Wow, I don’t think I’ve even thought about “Love Is” since I was a teen. Good to see that it’s just as creepy as it seemed then.

      • Homer!

        • Pseudonym

          Hey bvacuumnoisewater, why you no reply to my posts?

          • In the music thread? I will remedy that.

      • rea

        The boy is apparently old enough to get sent to Afghanistan, though

        • BigHank53

          No clue as to whether the Army managed to find him some pants, though.

  • ParallelH

    I was never too upset about the “self-plagiarism” part of the scandal initially, because it wasn’t clear to me if he was trying to pass off old world as new work, or just sloppy about how he was referencing his old work in trying to build upon it.

    And then came the rest of it . . ., the misquotes, the fabrications, the outright plagiarism from other authors. I believe in second chances, (in many chances actually), but I think those chances aren’t necessarily in the field one has squandered their reputation in. I think he deserves a chance to make a living, but he seems to have an unhealthy relationship with writing (in that he seems to have a hard time being honest in how he goes about it), so maybe writing is not the field he should expect to be welcomed back into with open arms. This isn’t the only kind of work he can do, and writing a big sappy book seems like either a clueless or cynical way to try and win back readers who are not stupid and don’t trust him anymore.

    IMO, he should probably just walk away and find something he’s better suited for.

    Although it makes me think, what, if anything, could he do to restore his reputation as an author? People don’t really seem inclined to forgive these kinds of mistakes.

    • ChrisTS

      The fact that he seems to be engaging in the same misbehaviors with this new effort suggests there is no hope and that he deserves no further chances as a writer.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    is the world really ready for foreigner’s big comeback?

    “i wanna know what love is,
    i want you to show –
    gaaaaacccckkkk – “

    • wjts

      Chapter Outline for “A Book About Love”, a completely original and unplagiarized book by Jonah Lehrer.

      Introduction: I Want to Know What Love Is.
      Chapter 1: Love is Strange
      Chapter 2: Love is the Drug
      Chapter 3: Love is Like a Bottle of Gin
      Chapter 4: Love is the Drug
      Chapter 5: Love is a Battlefield
      Chapter 6: Love is a Losing Game
      Chapter 7: Love is All Around
      Chapter 8: Love is Here to Stay
      Conclusion: Love is Natural and Real, but not for Such as You and I, My Love.

      • ChrisTS

        You skipped Chapter 9: Love Hurts.

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          And also Stinks and Bites but it also Will Keep Us Together

          • wjts

            Nonsense. Love will tear us apart… again.

          • ChrisTS

            Well one of my cats seems to be convinced that it must involve biting and her breath stinks….

          • ChrisTS

            Somehow, I think The Captain and Teneille (?) might be right up Jonah’s alley. (So to speak.)

            • Origami Isopod

              Those were muskrats, not hamsters.

        • JMP

          Or Love is Only True in Fairy Tales

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Don’t forget…
          Chapter 10: Love is Like Oxygen
          Chapter 11: Love Will Get You Like a Case of Anthrax

      • Ezra Williams

        The Book of Love is long and boring
        and written very long ago
        It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
        and things we’re all too young to know

      • rea

        I wonder, wonder, wonder who, who wrote “A Book About Love”

        • Hogan

          Not Jonah Lehrer, that’s for damn sure.

      • Origami Isopod

        It’s also a banquet on which we feast. And then we grab a long feather, head to the vomitorium, and hurl into the nearest recycling bin.

        This has been another exciting episode of “Will It Blend? Metaphor Edition.”

    • ChrisTS

      Hey. I liked that song!

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        i like a lot of foreigner’s stuff, when i think about it. but the joke was asking to be made, so…

        • ChrisTS

          I’m not sure I liked anything other than that one, so … Ok. :-)

  • Todd

    A Million Little Pieces of Cake

    • Malaclypse

      Fifty Shades of Underwear.

      • ChrisTS

        Beautiful. (Both of you, really.)

  • Ronan

    So you’re all agin romantic love now? Sheesh

  • HP

    The rise of Jonah Lehrer is something I just don’t get. I first encountered his writing when he was just another blogger on ScienceBlogs. At the time, he was writing about music cognition, and I tried engaging with him in the comments about some questions I had about methodology, and he just didn’t care. His posts starting getting longer and longer and more and more banal, and I lost interest and quit reading. Then he started selling stories to Big Media publications, publishing books, and getting all kinds of kudos, and I thought, “Did he suddenly become engaging and interesting?”

    Sadly, no! His articles for major publications turned out to be just as banal and personality-free as anything he turned out on his blog. And yet, on many science- and geek-oriented forums, he’s still considered to be a “good writer,” despite his ethical lapses. I’m just not seeing it. I can only imagine that his defenders (who are numerous) don’t actually read things.

    • ChrisTS

      Or, they don’t care about science, or they don’t care about writing, or they don’t care about ethics. So, yeah.

      • Ann Outhouse

        In all seriousness, what often gets otherwise mediocre writers ahead in the writing game, especially column-writing, is reliability. They turn in the required word count by deadline like clockwork and they don’t squeal when the editor butchers their baby with changes. So they become the editor’s darlings and can do no wrong, until the shortcuts they take to make deadlines catch up with them.

        • ChrisTS

          This may be the saddest thing I’ve read all week.

          • Gabriel Ratchet

            On the other hand it explains the careers of Jonah Goldberg quite handily …

        • rea

          “I’ll just cut-and-paste something together to meet the deadline; what could go wrong?”

        • In all seriousness, what often gets otherwise mediocre writers ahead in the writing game, especially column-writing, is reliability. They turn in the required word count by deadline like clockwork and they don’t squeal when the editor butchers their baby with changes. So they become the editor’s darlings

          Oh, do you EVER have it right. SO, so right.

  • Joey Maloney

    I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.

  • thelogos

    Linking him to She Who Is Not To Be Named is either a commercial ploy with the horrible Boomer patchouli set, or a long-con on those with fewer 2 brain cells to rub together. Well played.

  • Heron

    Jesus. Who are this man’s parents that so many rich folks are willing to continue paying him for his writing in spite of repeated misconduct?

    • Lee Rudolph

      Jesus. Who are this man’s parents

      When a virgin and a pigeon love each other very, very much…

  • drkrick

    So there was an unused extra verse to MacArthur Park.

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