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This is not a joke.
December 14, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

David Horvitz discovers several pages of his writing in this year's Dave Eggers-edited Best American Nonrequired Reading. He was not told that his work (pulled from his website) would be appearing in the book. Now he is peeved and has made several demands, "this is not a joke". (see the long Dec. 9 entry).via
posted by stbalbach (64 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew there was a reason I didn't like Dave Eggers.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:51 AM on December 14, 2008


Paging Corey Doctorow...
posted by Aversion Therapy at 8:52 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Plagiarism
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2008


I'm confused. Is this an example of plagiarism, or is it a matter of them publishing Horvitz's work, attributing it to him, and just not informing/compensating him? How the hell did that happen? That is completely, and amazingly, amateur. Somebody should definitely lose their job over this.
posted by billysumday at 8:59 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that a contributor to a book like that would be paid so little.
posted by cobra libre at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2008


It's a lot of things, but it's not plagiarism.
posted by applemeat at 9:01 AM on December 14, 2008


"For the month of January I will be residing in Berlin while I finish writing a children's/young adult book."

That made me laugh.
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:02 AM on December 14, 2008


It's a lot of things, but it's not plagiarism.

Yeah... thinking about it's more A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Appropiation
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2008


Yeah, he should lawyer up. He stands to make quite a bit more than five hundred bucks.
posted by EarBucket at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2008


I don't think, from his post, that it is really all about the money.
posted by Brockles at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2008


Is this the part where I bitch that this anthology always seems to have multiple pieces from The Believer in it, which always strikes me as a wee bit incestuous?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2008


David Horvitz has been on metafilter before. I think, like Brockles suggests, that this is becoming sort of a Ray Johnson style piece of mail art.
posted by Drab_Parts at 9:28 AM on December 14, 2008


This is not a joke.

I never did get Belgian Humour.
posted by mandal at 9:31 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find both Dave's to be obnoxious. Not sure why I should care about any of this.
posted by scarello at 9:32 AM on December 14, 2008


Wow. Publishing Amateurs.

Or PR Professionals.
posted by notyou at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2008


I am cold. Give me $327.16 and I will burn a piece of art to make myself warmer. I will send mail you a photo of the art aflame from here. I will only mail a photo of the art burning to anyone who sends me more than $101.37.

Buy Now
posted by mandal at 9:43 AM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow. This is quite fucked. His contract ammendments are very reasonable. McSwys ought to be ashamed. I wonder which other authors they failed to notify.
posted by Manhasset at 9:45 AM on December 14, 2008


Had this happen to me on a MUCH SMALLER scale by a guy putting out a zine, who took several pieces of parody poetry I wrote in a mass email to friends and published them under the name "anonymous." Not shitting.

That being said, it is an extremely disturbing feeling to open something up, and see your work without your permission.

And it instantly turns the editor/publisher into a compete and utter horseface momma douche in your mind.
posted by gcbv at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: a compete and utter horseface momma douche in your mind
posted by klanawa at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe Non Required Reading is assembled by students at 826 Valencia, Egger's childrens literacy and tutoring project he has setup. So in fact the book is assembled by amateurs (I can't find a cite right now).

Of course, someone further up doing copy editing / final didn't verify that they had permission, or they thought that the person before them already go it.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2008


is it a matter of them publishing Horvitz's work, attributing it to him, and just not informing/compensating him?

It sounds as though they attributed, informed and offered compensation to him. Just not as early as they should have done in the process.

How the hell did that happen? That is completely, and amazingly, amateur. Somebody should definitely lose their job over this.

It's the editor's job. Eggers is the editor. Hard to sack someone who:

a.) works for himself.
b.) makes you shitloads of money.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:58 AM on December 14, 2008


This guys is supposed to be a writer? You wouldn't know it from his correspondence.
posted by adamrice at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2008




This guys is supposed to be a writer?


Oh now, be nice to Eggers.
posted by gcbv at 10:06 AM on December 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It sounds as though they attributed, informed and offered compensation to him.

No it doesn't. It sounds as though they attributed him and he found out when a friend of his bought the book at an airport and emailed him. He then contacted the publisher and then they offered compensation.
posted by Manhasset at 10:15 AM on December 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's not plagiarism, it's copyright violation. He has every right to be angry, and he has grounds for suit.
posted by Class Goat at 10:18 AM on December 14, 2008


You know, I had a similar thing happen with the McSweeneys humor book. They published a list I wrote and I didn't know about until a friend ran across it once the book was in paperback. My email address had changed in the interim, but once I found out about it I contacted McSweeneys asking for a contributor copy or something. I never heard back. I was happy enough that something of mine was published that I didn't pursue it further, but this is definitely not the first time they've neglected to contact someone.
posted by sugarfish at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


"That's it, Eggers. You're going on report!"
"Pod Six is jerks!"
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit amazed that some people in here don't see the wrongdoing. Clearly, something of his was republished without his authorization (or even notifying him), he found out and called them on it, and they responded, "Right... Let's pretend we did nothing wrong and and offer a retroactive contract! Which is what we always meant to do..."
posted by proj at 10:29 AM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


It really annoys me that Houghton Mifflin is taking this "oh whoopsie, want $500 'cause that's what everybody else got?" stance. At this point, he can demand a ton of money from them and they pretty much have to accept it. So, I think his requested revisions are pretty reasonable.
posted by queensissy at 10:30 AM on December 14, 2008


queensissy At this point, he can demand a ton of money from them

Well but that may cost a "ton of money" * 2, which kinda defeats the purpose, well if said purpose is financial. If the purpose is to teach them a lesson, making them buy diner for janitors is so sweeter.
posted by sammyo at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2008


I really like Horvitz's response. I wish more people insisted on this kind of creative passive aggressive low-dollar humiliation than just lawyered up for a big payday. I suspect he likes 826/McSweeneys and doesn't want to hurt them financially, but wants them to pay in some other non destructive way. Nice art-practicing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now he is peeved and has made several demands.

Among them:
8. ART CLARIFICATION The Publisher will send the Rights Holder a notarized document stating that the Rights Holder's contribution to the Work are legitimate art-works.

9. DINNER WITH MIYA OSAKI The Publisher will pay for the expenses of one (1) dinner between the Rights Holder, Miya Osaki, and xxxx xxxx at Sushi Gari in New York.

10. A WALK WITH NICOLE ANGELORO Nicole Angeloro will accompany the Rights Holder on a pleasant walk in a park in New York.

11. A DINNER FOR FOUR EMPLOYEES The publisher will pay for the expenses of one (1) dinner between two (2) janitors who clean the publisher's offices and two (2) employees of the Publisher. The publisher will send the photographic documentation of this dinner to the Rights Holder.

12. NEW BOOK FOR VLATKA HORVAT The publisher will send Vlatka Horvat [...purchased a copy of the book at LAX airport. She notified me that my section had an ink smear on it.] one (1) free copy of the Work.

...15. JAPANESE TEA The publisher will cover the expense of an unspecified amount Japanese Gyokuro tea for the Rights Holder.
Crazy, but reasonable demands for redress, I guess.
posted by ericb at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


This entire incident is in and of itself an "art project" for Horvitz.
posted by ericb at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


it was my understanding that 826 valencia is a nonprofit organization that helps kids with creative writing. i don't know how much the publisher makes off the book, but could it be that horvitz doesn't want to go around suing NPO's, regardless of their misdeeds?
posted by camdan at 11:19 AM on December 14, 2008


i don't know how much the publisher makes off the book, but could it be that horvitz doesn't want to go around suing NPO's, regardless of their misdeeds?

I'm with camdan on this point.

The error was made at 826 Valencia -- which is a non-profit, providing workshops, tutoring in-school assistance and field trips to kids in San Francisco, as well as NYC, Los Angeles, Michigan, Seattle, Chicago and Boston.
"I am terribly sorry about this. Your email eventually made its way to me--I help coordinate with 826/McSweeney's on the production of The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I talked with Jesse Nathan there, and it seems that this was a major oversight."
posted by ericb at 11:26 AM on December 14, 2008


About The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee
"Our selection committee consists of a handful of high school students. One contingent is in the Bay Area, a second is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a third is in Seattle. These students help Dave Eggers edit The Best American Nonrequired Reading.

This collection, published by Houghton-Mifflin, compiles the country's best fiction, journalism, essays, comics, and humor every year, and introduces a large readership to dozens of new writers and publications.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading committee -- this year comprising students from ten different high schools -- meets nearly every week of the year to read, debate, and compile this offbeat but vital anthology.

This website will update readers on the progress of the 2009 collection and give you a peek into the process by which the collection is chosen.

The students will blog about what they're reading and listening to and watching, and we'll transcribe choice moments from the BANR meetings.

....This is a fund-raising collection, with all the proceeds going to 826 Valencia, the pirate shop and student writing lab in San Francisco."
posted by ericb at 11:30 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, he should lawyer up. He stands to make quite a bit more than five hundred bucks.

Have you ever been to Gari? That sushi dinner alone is going to run quite a bit more than five hundred bucks.
posted by nowonmai at 11:31 AM on December 14, 2008


So in fact the book is assembled by amateurs.

Yep. I suspect that it fell through the cracks in the process of the students gathering their selections.
posted by ericb at 11:33 AM on December 14, 2008


This incident will likely provide the 826 Valencia students a (positive) lesson in understanding issues such as attribution, authorship, copyright, editing, publishing, etc. It'd be great if Horvitz himself were to host a workshop at any of their centers once things are wrapped-up.
posted by ericb at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The selections for the book are chosen by the students and Eggers. It's not like the kids are drawing up contracts and contacting the authors for publishing rights. That's McSwys and/or HM responsibility.

Also, if it is McSwys's responsibility (students or Eggers) I highly doubt that a publisher of HM's size doesn't double check shit like this as it makes them look ridiculous to other authors. Even if it was 826's error it's HM's fault and responsibility. How a suit would take money out of 826's pocket is beyond me.
posted by Manhasset at 11:42 AM on December 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Even if it was 826's error it's HM's fault and responsibility.

Agreed.
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on December 14, 2008


I'm surprised by the tone here. I think they completely messed up, said as much, and now we'll see how they react to his demands.

Yes, it's possible they were trying to screw him. But it's also possible they screwed up royally, said as much, and will agree to his demands.

I also think his demands are silly. He's both assuming the worst and making a hamfisted attempt at ... something.
posted by jragon at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2008


From the kids, this is most likely an understandable mistake. Their adult mentor/coach/supervisors were entirely negligent and stupid - don't you think they kids involved feel really great about this? And what about Horvitz's friend Rhea Lewitski who would probably like to use a book just like this to inspire her creative writing students, but for the mixed-message that would come across when they see her name misspelled.

And also, I just think Eggers is a douche with an unerring instinct for screw-ups like this that sort of kind of look like an oopsie but really there does seem to be a pattern of needing to be on the edge of having actually screwed up for real without actually getting busted and always always doing weird pandering things to make it seem like he wants everyone to love love love him.

Possibly, that second paragraph is irrational.

Either way, a publishing house with a bank account has no business shipping out books without the names of live human beings with a teeny bit of oversight.

There's also the ugly possibility that this is case where the adults didn't let the kids do jack - not only denying them the opportunities the program was allegedly providing but also doing such a raw job that the kids now have a smudge on their resumes.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


He has a nice lawsuit if he wants it, but who wants to do that over something like this? He could get an injunction, seek statutory damages like the record companies do, yada yada yada. However, given that this is probably just carelessness rather than callousness on Egger's part the path Horvitiz is taking seems appropriate. If I were him though, I would ask for ten times the money just for the hassle factor of how this came about.
posted by caddis at 12:02 PM on December 14, 2008


I like Horvitz's response. It will be interesting to see how H.M. tries to cover it's ass, or rather, how the people who are at fault try to cover their asses by covering HM's ass.


And also, I just think Eggers is a douche with an unerring instinct for screw-ups like this that sort of kind of look like an oopsie but really there does seem to be a pattern of needing to be on the edge of having actually screwed up for real without actually getting busted and always always doing weird pandering things to make it seem like he wants everyone to love love love him.

Now now, let's not get all personal and specific.

posted by From Bklyn at 12:12 PM on December 14, 2008


Isn't McSweenys also the origin of JT LeRoy publicity stunt?
posted by destro at 12:19 PM on December 14, 2008


Isn't McSweenys also the origin of JT LeRoy publicity stunt?

No. LeRoy predates McSweeney's by two years at least.
posted by Manhasset at 12:25 PM on December 14, 2008


And also, I just think Eggers is a douche with an unerring instinct for screw-ups like this that sort of kind of look like an oopsie but really there does seem to be a pattern of needing to be on the edge of having actually screwed up for real without actually getting busted and always always doing weird pandering things to make it seem like he wants everyone to love love love him.

Possibly, that second paragraph is irrational.


It would seem less so if you, you know, supplied a few other examples of Eggers' "on the edge" screw-ups.

Now now, let's not get all personal and specific.

Well, it's personal, anyway.
posted by mediareport at 12:49 PM on December 14, 2008


No. LeRoy predates McSweeney's by two years at least.

Actually, McSweeney's published at least one LeRoy story, Harold's End, and Eggers wrote the introduction for its book release. He was also one of the most effusive of the early praisers of LeRoy's work (quoted at the LeRoy site saying that LeRoy's first two books "will prove to be among the most influential American books of the last ten years"). He's hardly the only one to get taken in there, and I'd still like to see Lesser Shrew come up with some other examples to support his attack.
posted by mediareport at 1:06 PM on December 14, 2008


Actually, McSweeney's published at least one LeRoy story

Yes, but they're not the origin. The quarterly didn't appear until 98 or 99. LeRoy was first published in 96. McSwys is a victim of the LeRoy nonsense, not a creator or perpetrator.
posted by Manhasset at 1:13 PM on December 14, 2008


Why does everyone hate Eggers so much? Is it just because he's popular? Sure he's a bit self-promoting but he genuinely puts tons of energy and time into creative, innovative social justice work. 826 is a wonderful program, I happen to think those non-required reading books are wonderful, and the fact that he decided to use his name to bring kids in as an editorial team is commendable. Plus I think some of his writing is pretty good.

This incident really sucks but at this moment I'm not sure who's fault it is - and I imagine the fault belongs with the management and legal team at the publishing house.
posted by serazin at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Where's the part where it says that there shall be no brown m&m's?
posted by not_on_display at 2:55 PM on December 14, 2008


McSweeney's screwed up, sure. And the acknowledgement was a bit glib. But the entirety of his demand #6 is...um...well...pompous and insane. And some of it is kinda blackmailey.

For reference:
6. The following are further amendments to the contract. Please take me seriously here, this is not a joke.

Miya Osaki is a friend of mine. She has always supported me. I would like to show my appreciation of our friendship and her support of my art-practise with a dinner at Sushi Gari on 78th Street in New York with her husband, xxxx xxxx. The cost of this dinner will be covered by the publisher.

I would like to have a nice walk in Central Park or Prospect Park in New York with you (xxxxxxxx). This will be done the next time you are in New York. I recommend the fall or spring. This will not cost anything except your time. You can refuse this, I won't be offended.

I would like the publisher to pay for a nice dinner between two janitors who maintain the cleanliness of the publisher's offices, and two employees of the publisher. The publisher must provide me photographic documentation of this dinner, as well as a list of the 4 participants.

My friend Vlatka Horvat had purchased a copy of the book at LAX airport. She notified me that my section had an ink smear on it. I would like the publisher to send her a new copy of the book. She can mail the publisher her copy if the publisher would like.

I would like the publisher to make one purchase from my website: www.davidhorvitz.com/if. The publisher can purchase anything. Prices range from $1 to thousands of dollars.

For the month of January I will be residing in Berlin while I finish writing a children's/young adult book. After I am finished, employees of the publisher who specialize in reviewing books submitted for publishing will look at my manuscript with extreme special attention. They will then write a critical response to the book. I do not expect that they will agree to publish the book, but I do expect a critical response as to why they wish to or wish not to publish the book.

To help me write the book while I am in Germany the publisher will send me Japanese Gyokuro tea. The publisher can purchase it from where they wish. However, I recommend www.hibiki-an.com.

I would also like the publisher to pay me an extra $114.80, besides the $500, to cover the damages done.

And finally, I would like the publisher to make a donation to the Barack Obama presidency. The publisher can donate however much they wish. It can be done easily online at this web-site: www.barackobama.com.

posted by desuetude at 6:14 PM on December 14, 2008


Horvitz is a self-aggrandizing, pompous, no-talent ass and deserves to be mocked openly for this too-precious-by-half attempt at getting himself noticed.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:27 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why does everyone hate Eggers so much? Is it just because he's popular?

I'm a little peeved at him right now because the pieces in the most recent volume of the quarterly are somewhat pedestrian and predictable. But I wouldn't say I hate him.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:44 PM on December 14, 2008


Newsflash: Hack uses free publicity to garner more.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:43 AM on December 15, 2008


From demands: "I would also like an official document written to me explaining that you had made a mistake in not recognizing these as art-works. I will show this document to people in the future who see the book and have concerns over my practice as a legitimate art-practice. This is extremely important for my future career as an artist. This is to be signed and notarized. I will ad this to the contract."

That he keeps calling them art-works reminds me of the lunatics who send me mail at work. I really hope he's showing this to fellow passengers on the bus, as "I HAVE A NOTARIZED FORM THAT SAYS I HAVE LEGITIMATE ART-PRACTICE" is one step before Gene Ray time-cubism.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on December 15, 2008


"this is not a joke"

Then why am I laughing?
posted by Rashomon at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2008


Why does everyone hate Eggers so much?

Its typical of people insecure about never having accomplished anything in life. Commonly seen to afflict people who dole out the label 'hipster' to complete strangers willy-nilly.

I happen to love the series, and think its skillfully edited and rather enjoyed the Horvitz piece the kids at 826 selected. Its FAR, FAR more bizarre than the contract amendments, and I can see why he's pissed. The article portrayed Horvitz 'services' as more of a silly ebay stunts than as a art-performances you could purchase from him.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:00 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


To me, he's that guy who you happen to know has said exactly the same thing to two or three of your friends, and told all of them he had never, ever felt that way before, and bought each of them the very same book with the same inscription on the flyleaf.

And you know, that guy puts you in a potition where someone you care about is gushing about what great thing someone said and how great they feel about it and the wonderful future, and you're just kind of struggling to keep them from going way overgboard without crossing a line.

If thinking someone is douchy when, after years of forgetting he even existed, when you read a post about him means I hate him, then, yeah, I hate him. Thought I just considered him douchy, despite his good works, but here we are.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:54 PM on December 15, 2008


But why does he leave you feeling that way? I mean, did her actually hurt a real-life friend of yours, or is there some story you've heard about him acting that way? I'm genuinely curious!
posted by serazin at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2008


"her" being "he" of course.
posted by serazin at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2008


I would imagine that all of this is really making somebody reconsider their dream of becoming a writer one day.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:03 PM on December 15, 2008


Let's say he was terribly careless about singing a big song, in a way that certainly seemed designed to make people coo, about what sort of oh-so-personal professional help he was planning to provide. Same song to more than one person I know. This was ages ago. Maybe he's over it.

And to what I think iamkimiam is getting at, the irony of going out to inspire people, but being careless in way that puts those people at risk of looking foolish/stupid/greedy dovetails with on the the things I was on the sidelines for.

There was nothing sexual about it. But people who are writing programs or working for them are often more emotionally ... well, you see the similarity.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:53 PM on December 17, 2008


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