Seeing that this book had not yet garnered any reviews, I thought I would put in a word for Mallon's engrossing and fast-paced study of what is (to my mind anyway) a fascinating topic. In light of recent revelations about the work of Kearns Goodwin and Ambrose, it makes for a timely and lively read. In his opening thumbnail sketch of the history of plagiarism, Mallon shows how major literary figures such as Laurence Sterne, Coleridge and de Quincey infused their works with ample unattributed borrowings. (Sterne, for instance, stole heavily from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy -- even going so far as to plagiarize a passage about plagiarism -- and plagiarized his own love letters to his wife in letters he sent to his mistress years later.) The real gems here, though, are Mallon's discussion of modern scandals. Mallon writes about the novel "Wild Oats" by Jacob Epstein, a late '70s lit wonder boy with all the connections, who fell from grace when his plagiarisms of Martin Amis's "Rachel Papers" were revealed. (Reading Epstein's novel, the passages stolen from Amis seem to Mallon like "plateaus on otherwise flat land," roughly.) And in the cleverly titled chapter "Quiet Goes the Don," about former Texas Tech history professor Jamie Sokolow, Mallon shows how reluctant the academic establishment, down to the AAUP and American Historical Association, was to take action against an obvious and known plagiarist. (Sokolow, after he was coaxed out of Texas Tech, ended up evaluating historical research for the NEH in Washington.)
This book fascinatingly plumbs the psychology of the plagiarist, for example his seeming desire to get caught. (Epstein's novel features students who buy essays from term-paper companies, and a child who is punished for plagiarizing Winnie the Pooh.) An afterword on the internet is interesting but too brief, and the postmodernist challenge to authorship is dealt with too lightly and dismissively for my tastes; however, I would heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject. For further reading, I would suggest a memoir by Neal Bowers, a victim of plagiarism, called "Words for the Taking." Also Anne Fadiman's essay in Ex Libris (from which I have "stolen" my title, heh heh). Of course, she had her own sources.