It's been unclear whether the whole Ian McEwan kerfuffle—he's been accused of borrowing a little too liberally in his novel Atonement from the memoirs of a British romance novelist, who worked as a Nightingale nurse during WWII—would turn into a highbrow Kaavya Viswanathan situation, or would be quietly swept under the rug. In the Kaavya corner, we've had, well, no one. In the other corner, critics and authors (including Thomas Pynchon!) are practically tripping over themselves to defend McEwan. But just before the bell, here's Slate crusader Jack Shafer to tell you that no, we should not be sweeping this under the rug, and Ian McEwan is a very, very bad man. Oh, and all those critics and authors defending him? They're elitist fucks. Sayeth Shafer:
As a long-time magazine and newspaper editor, I'd have no trouble firing McEwan for writing as he did if he worked for me ... But McEwan's defenders mustn't judge him by the rules of mere journalism. He links to his champions on his home page, where his own explanation can be found. The defense goes like this: He's a novelist, operating in a world of make-believe, and storytellers have always been allowed to pilfer and pinch from other writers with impunity.Eh, not so fast, sez the Shaf.
He offers this zinger as proof:
If McEwan really did nothing out of the ordinary, the authors campaigning for him would do him a great service to note the passages in their own books that rooked from historical sources in a similar manner. Don't hold your breath.So we're turning to you to make the final call.