Thursday, December 01, 2005

Anonymous asks in comments how Robert Clark Young is being disingenuous in his statements on Brad Vice's alleged plagiarism on this web page. Anonymous follows up by pointing out Young's article in the the current NY Press.

To the question of Young's disingenuousness, let me point out that Young compares Vice's use of some of Carmer's words to the institution of slavery and says:

The law states that the cut-off date is 1923. Writers are free to steal the phraseology--even entire texts--of any work published before that date. This is a federal law. True, white Southerners have a long history of ignoring and violating federal law, making up excuses for why it should be "nullified," ranging from the South Carolina Nullification Act to secession to Jim Crow laws to Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to the illegal placement of the Ten Commandments on state property to Jake Adam York's justification for stealing KKK stories from the dead.

What we need is a literary William Tecumseh Sherman to ride down there with a few thousand good men and make sure you boys play clean. No wonder those folks in Georgia were so quick to rescind Vice's Flannery O'Connor award--they were quick to attempt to squelch this embarrassment before the story hit the Northern press and Yankees felt the righteous need to "come on down heah and interfere"--the traditional fear of white Southerners.

It's too late of course. This story will not limit itself to the Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia papers that have run it. The Chronicle of Higher Education, a Yankee paper, has run the story, and other Yankee papers will follow. I ought to know. I write for Yankee papers and have already contacted The Editors. Vice's volley against the Fort Sumter of Literary Ethics must not go unanswered.
You want to know why I call this guy a nutcase? Please read and re-read the above, which explicitly compares white Southern writers, a list that presumably includes Faulkner, O'Connor, Harry Crews, Larry Brown, Eudora Welty, Madison Smartt Bell, Bob Shacochis, as well as the Barry Hannah he wrongly hatchets in his NY Press article, to pathological racists from the past. The condescension he exhibits in this argument states almost everything I need to know about the guy: he's an unredeemable prick.

Then, in his NY Press article, he reiterates the current charges against Vice (calling for his hanging? what?), claims to have found further evidence of plagiarism, and then bitches about the chumminess of writers associated with the Sewanee Writers' Conference.

Leaving aside the first issue because I've already stated my opinion on it, Young's alleged new evidence of plagiarism is pure bull. Young states that Vice could have rewritten those phrases in his own words, and, well, they are. What's more, this grand evidence is bland to the point that it could appear verbatim in almost any number of books about blowflies.

Finally, regarding the chumminess of the participants at the Sewanee Writers' Conference: well, I'm shocked, shocked, to learn that writers, especially literary writers, most of whom will have to have other jobs since their fiction will not ever pay the bills, may occasionally play the you-scratch-my-back, I-scratch-yours game. That's quite the scoop there. No doubt Mr. Young is above all of this because of his superior Yankee upbringing.

Update with links.

Fred of American Views Abroad offers a more succinct (but more clever) analysis of Mr. Young's article.

Jason Sanford at StorySouth weighs in with a more thorough analysis, including a rather convincing rebuke of Mr. Young's flimsy "new evidence" of plagiarism.

Michelle Richmond's shows the allegations of mutal back-scratching at Sewanee to be as fictive and twisted as the rest of Mr. Young's article.

After reading these other, better-conceived posts, it's obvious to me that Mr. Young is pursuing a personal vendetta against Brad Vice for unclear reasons. And here I thought Armond White was the worst writer at the NY Press!


Fred 4:52 AM, December 02, 2005  

I found your post on Brad Vice, and agree with what you wrote. I expressed similar sentiments at the site I contribute to.

Andrew 12:47 PM, December 02, 2005  

Others agree with the issues you raise. storysouth makes the point that Young ignores evidence supporting Brad Vice and misquotes Vice's sentences in the news article (and that this misquoting is poor journalism).

Hayden Childs 1:54 PM, December 02, 2005  

Thank you both for your comments and links. Fred, since both of us received anonymous comments challenging our support of Vice in light of Young's article, I'm pretty much willing to assume that our commenter is probably the same person, and that person is Young himself.

I note that one of my more frequent referrers in the last two days is a google search on Young and Vice, which strikes me as fairly unlikely unless Mr. Young is, in fact, googlebating.

P.M. Cormano 2:55 PM, December 02, 2005  

As Jason Sanford points out in his Story South post, Young failed to disclose in the NYPress article that he's a Sewanee Writers Conference alum. He attended as a fellow (fellows usually have one or two books and come for free) in '98 or '99, and according to my source, was reamed in a workshop led by Barry Hannah. My source described the event as "less a 'coordinated workshop attack' than a dozen or so people independently arriving at the same conclusion: that his piece blew ass." He also gave a reading that was widely regarded as egregiously terrible, after which he probably experienced some degree of alienation, as people tend not to want to be around someone who has just publicly humiliated themselves. My guess is that his grudge is with the Conference and Hannah in particular, not Vice, whose slip-up just seems to be an occasion for revenge. For more insight into Young's pysche, check out his Wikipedia entry, which is about the same length as John Updike's or Philip Roth's, and the Wikipedia stub for Comic Novel, which includes this sentence: "Notable American comic novelists include Robert Clark Young, Hunter S. Thompson, John Kennedy Toole, Joseph Heller and Terry Southern."

Hayden Childs 4:36 PM, December 02, 2005  

Thanks, P.M. I know that Barry Hannah can be a tough old bastard (which I mean in the best possible sense) about bad writing, so it's especially sweet to learn that Mr. Young's vendetta against (horrors!) writers who like each others' work is fueled by his own reaming by Mr. Hannah.

Das 9:01 PM, December 03, 2005  

Plagiarism is a pretty nasty thing so don’t be surprised its exposure comes nastily down the pike. Feel free to pound on Mr. Young all you want but it looks to me like a bunch of well-placed, well-intentioned people invested in a light fingered typist. The sooner the Sewanee-U of G-O’Connor Award nexus leaves off exulting in the embedded power, etc, etc, of Vice’s vice, the better off they’ll be.

P.M. Cormano 11:40 PM, December 03, 2005  

To me the weirdest thing about all of this is the number of people overlooking Young's incandescent lunacy (anyone remember Frank Grimes, from the Simpsons?) simply because they enjoy seeing a perceived insider getting taking down.

Look, it was stupid of Vice not to put the epigraph that appears in his thesis into his story collection. I'm not defending that oversight. But if you've been paying attention to both sides of this debate and you still think Vice is a worst-of-the-worst, cut-and-dried plagiarist---as das seems to---then you're flat-out fuc*king retarded. Exhibit A: the aforementioned epigraph. Exhibit B: the occasions when Vice has publicly acknowledged his debt to Carmer's work. Exhibit C: the title of the offending story, which is a SUPEROBVIOUS play on Carmer's title. Exhibit D: the profile of the work Vice supposedly plagiarized, which is nil everywhere else but sky-high in the intellectual community in the state where Vice makes his home, works, and sets his fiction. Yes, sounds like the light-fingered typist is really trying to put one over on the man.

Yet there was no epigraph, and Vice's book was pulped quite famously. What was supposed to be the triumphant occasion of the publication of his first book has become, I'm guessing, the worst experience of his life. At this point I'm not making the argument that he got jobbed, I'm just saying that he's paid about as steep a price as he could be expected to pay for the crime he committed.

Enter Robert Clark Young. If you've read his rants on the Story South page in conjunction with his NY Press piece and you find him lucid, reasonable, and sane, you should probably hunt him down and marry him immediately. Unsatisfied by the retraction of the Flannery O'Connor prize and Vice's accompanying humiliation, he got the NYPress to lend him 3000 or so words and space for Vice's mug shot to keep the fire burning a little longer. He expanded his target to include the Sewanee Writers Conference, not to mention the entire South, as if the region itself had anointed Vice its golden boy. And he contacted the University of Cincinnati requesting they rescind Vice's Ph.D. Let me make that remarkable statement again: He contacted the University of Cincinnati requesting they rescind Vice's Ph.D. There's a fine line between tattletaling and whistleblowing, and Young isn't within 500 miles of it.

Thus the relevancy of my post, das. Vice has already been knocked around plenty. Young is out for something else, something deeply personal, and deeply ugly. I don't care how you feel about the establishment (although I will say that if you think the SWC and UGA are in cahoots, you don't know shi*t about it), you don't accept character assassination without checking the source of the bullet. And in this case the source is a guy who got his feelings hurt when someone told him his story was bad and never got over it.

PS Young attended Sewanee in '01, not '98 or '99 as I said in my earlier post.

Hayden Childs 3:42 PM, December 05, 2005  

I'm going to assume that Das isn't familiar with the particulars of the case or is simply unswayed for unknown reasons.

That said, I agree with P.M.'s comment. If Brad Vice were attempting to steal from Carmer, he's the worst goddamn thief in literature. If not, then why are we going through all of this?

The nastiest part of this regrettable incident has been the Hannity-like rush to judgment of writers and readers who, one would assume, are otherwise intelligent and fair people. Perhaps these people are better informed than I think and maybe even have further evidence to prove that Vice is a plagiarist, but I doubt it. I think the people who continually call Vice a thief on, say, Miss Snark's website, are no better informed than your average Fox News watcher.

Young himself was apparently on the receiving end of the literary community's generosity of spirit when his own first novel was condemned by a right-wing pro-censorship group. Rather than finding solidarity with his fellow writers, he has seemingly chosen to let hurt feelings from negative feedback guide his actions into senseless retribution.

Anyway, thank you for your comment, Das. I do wonder if you have read the evidence in favor of Vice.

And thank you very much for your comment, P.M. I think you're dead-on correct in your argument, but hope you'll let me be the one to call people names on this blog in the future.

Roger McCreary 8:55 PM, December 06, 2005  

I liked Robert Clark Young's article. I believe he's standing up for those writers without university connections, maybe those writers who scribble their prose on the way to work on the subway, or before work in the gloom of the early dawn; those writers who simply send their stories out in droves and hope an editor likes them -- not those writers, like Vice, who had enormous help along the way.

As PhD and a professor of Creative Writing, there is no justification for his leaving out both the citations and the Carmer epigraph. The Dent quotes just make Vice look worse in my opinion.

And I find it doubly odd that some people can continue defending a man whose very dissertation contains allegedly plagiarized material.

P.M. Cormano 10:33 PM, December 06, 2005  

Gag me with a manual typewriter, Roger, and while you're at it, please explain how Young's article stands up "for those writers without university connections." Seems to me more like it "kicks a man who's already down."

Roger McCreary 12:32 AM, December 07, 2005  

The way I read Young's article was thus: look at this guy who was very young and achieved a lot though the help of some important people. Granted, those that helped him believed in him. And yet look he pays these people back? By getting involved in this kind of humiliating scam.

If Vice is not a plagiarist, then I'm sorry, he's not a very bright guy. EVERYBODY knows, especially in today's hypersensitive, litigious climate, to CITE YOUR SOURCES.

Stand up for him all you want, Mr. Cormano -- and I'm not saying that the guy should be burnt at the stake -- but you can bet that if it was me, and if I had a dissertation that contained allegedly plagiarized material, I would certainly expect there to be a serious investigation and I would be questioning the very validity of my degree.

It's academia, baby: in a world where there's so little at stake, plagiarism is the mightiest offense.

Hayden Childs 1:35 AM, December 07, 2005  

So if his dissertation has a citation, as storysouth is claiming, and his dissertation advisor agrees that the citation was adequate acknowledgement, as she has apparently done (also on the storysouth link), isn't the real problem the fate of the epigraph?

I actually don't know this. Did Vice cut it or did UGA press?

Also, I don't understand your point about how Young's article makes a stand for writers without university connections. How were these writers disenfranchised by the Sewanee Writers Conference and/or re-infranchised by Young's hatchet job? If I were to murder, say, a resident of a gated community (allowing your idea of academic creative writers as privileged to stand), have I somehow struck a blow for social equality? Or have I just killed somebody?

What's more, Young trumpets his connection to academia (ok, the U of Phoenix, so academia-ish) in everything I can find about the guy, publishes in literary journals connected to universities, and has attended this Sewanee Writer's Conference thingamajig. How is this guy striking a blow for the average joe writer?

Getting back to Dr. Vice, I think the burden of proof argument should go the other way: rather than on Vice, on the j'accusers. If Vice was trying to pull a fast one by stealing Carmer's words as his own, why has he repeatedly acknowledged his debt to Carmer, allowed his story to be published side-by-side with Carmer's, named his story after a chapter in Carmer's book, and fully informed his dissertation advisor and past editors about his attempt to embed Carmer's words into his own story? Why would he do that? Why wouldn't he pretend that he'd never read Carmer and simply let the man's work go unmentioned? Where's the goddamn intent?

Roger McCreary 11:06 AM, December 07, 2005  

Brad Vice's dissertation has an epigraph; there is no citation.

Hayden Childs 11:17 AM, December 07, 2005  

Which is acknowledgement, at the least, of Vice's debt to Carmer.

What's the standard on this? Assuming that Vice is honest about his intent, which was to pay tribute to Carmer by putting some of Carmer's observations into the mind of one of his characters, is there an academic standard?

Indeterminacy 11:03 PM, December 08, 2005  

I'm in touch with another blog which has received anonymous comments and e-mails about the Brad Vice affair. For a time I had a blurb up on my blog linking to the Storysouth article about Brad.

Just recently I discovered that my blog has been labelled as spam. This can happen if someone flags a blog as objectionable, in which case automatic software checks the blog. Until a real person reviews my blog, I can no longer post automatically, but must enter a word verification.

Because of the abusive mails and comments that have been sent around anonymously, possibly originating from Robert Clark Young, I wish to request an investigation from google, whether my blog was flagged by the same person(s) originating the abusive messages. So please write to me with any log data you might have.

I couldn't find your e-mail, so here's mine:

Anonymous 9:29 PM, December 10, 2005  

I used to know Robert Clark Young personally, though I ended our friendship some time ago due to his paranoia and other mental problems. Bob is one of the most vengeful persons I have ever met. If you ever managed to cross him somehow, in his estimation--no matter if it was ten years ago--he takes pains to make sure he gets even for it. He lives for it, folks. I have no problem with the idea that something happened between Bob in a workshop at Sewanee--an evening with Bob is a litany on his part of those who've "done him wrong." It's somewhat satisfying to see him display that in print for a change, but I feel sorry for anyone who's the focus of Bob's venom.

Anonymous 10:02 PM, January 05, 2006  

I'm different than the anonymous guy who wrote earlier. I would merely add the comment that, to the best of my knowledge, Vice's Ph D is in creative writing, not an academic field--so the various slams and accolades, darts and laurels, provided him for his degree shouldn't count. A Ph D in creative writing is to an MFA as a cherry coke is to a coke.
Dr. Anonymous.

Anonymous 2:27 PM, January 13, 2006  

This is kind of interesting, if unsurprising. Scroll down to the very bottom:

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