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.