Is it Mixing? Or Plagiarism?

Last weekend, while I was busy trying to solve the EU’s problems with a potential unified military force – I was at Harvard National Model United Nations – I came across a short NY Times article that struck a nerve.

Helene Hegemann is just 17.  But she already has a play and a movie under her belt. Her first book, about a 16-year-old who enters Berlin’s drug and club worlds after her mother dies, has climbed the bestseller lists and is a finalist for a $20, 000 award. But the book and author are in the middle of a huge plagiarism dispute.  It turns out the author has lifted pages from another book without many changes.

The Awards jury was aware of the charges when they made the book a finalist. And one member was even quoted as believing the mixing was a concept of the book.

The author identifies herself as a

representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,”

I totally disagree with both the author, and the awards jury for selecting this book as a finalist. I have no problem with mixing, when the artists are forthright and say they mixed. But this author tried to get away without saying anything. That’s plagiarism, and she got caught.

Mixing is most common in music, when DJs produce new tracks by throwing a couple old songs over new beats. But I’ve never really seen it in books before. I just don’t think it goes well with such a static medium as books. The whole point of books and printed words in general is that it is the original thought of the writer, which goes against the philosophy of mixing.

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