Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Re-phrase a line, win champagne

The ruckus over Ian McEwan's debt to previously published work has already been so widely covered in the culture pages that I hestitate to devote any more space to it. But Jan Dalley's take on the matter in the Financial Times is brief enough--and comes with a prize--that I thought I would pass on the money (pun unavoidable) paragraph:
The recent micro-fuss about Ian McEwan is ridiculous. His offence was to draw on a memoir by Lucilla Andrews, a writer of “hospital romances”. It was factual material about the grim realities of nursing in the second world war, which he used when researching the grim realities of nursing in the second world war. There is no copyright in historical material – the Da Vinci Code case re-confirmed that – although there may be in the form of words in which it is expressed. Writers continually re-work each other’s sentences: how else would history be written? Perhaps McEwan should have done that more thoroughly. I am therefore offering a bottle of champagne to the reader who can best re-phrase this: “she dabbed gentian violet on ringworm, acquaflavin emulsion on a cut, and painted lead lotion on a bruise”.
--Marshal Zeringue