When Michael David Murphy, at 2point8, a street photography blog, got his copy, he says he was "surprised by how many quotes are utilized in the essays by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, and how few of the quotes are cited." So, he continues, "on a lark, I started inserting bits of the book's text into my search engine on 2point8 and (you guessed it) was surprised to find multiple passages that were copied verbatim, from this site." (Emphases his.) Specifically, he later clarifies, "Uncited sections from two interviews (originally published on 2point8) appear on pages 14 & 85 of Street Photography Now."
More regrettably, there are comments on his post from a person named Johanna, otherwise unidentified, who apparently either is, or is speaking for, the book's publisher, and from one of the book's authors, Sophie Howarth—both of whom condescendingly wave off his concerns. "...Even if Sophie and Stephen [the authors] had provided citations of sources for each and every quote," says Johanna, "we would not have included them—preferring instead to have lively and informative essays and biographies, without the interruption of academic apparatus in text...."
What? Indicating the sources of quotations is now "academic apparatus"? It's pleasantly non-academic to imply that you conducted the interview yourself, firsthand, rather than credit whoever actually did?
I got to wondering if anything in my background as a journalist, editor, writer or reader provides any basis for such a view, which I immediately leapt to judge as absurd.
And I do think of one precedent: Renaissance essayists would sometimes quote classical authors (usually inset, and in italics, and in either Latin or ancient Greek)—making the assumption, one supposes, that all of their erudite readers would have received the standard private tutelage and done the standard Continental tour and be fluent both in the dead languages used and in the works of the authors so quoted. So the Restoration essayist Thomas Browne, say, might allow Propertius or Seneca or some classical author of like ilk to stand thusly self-identified...or so I think; on checking Donald Frame's translation of Michel de Montaigne, the classical authors are identified (though it might have been Frame who did that, rather than Montaigne), and, in Francis Bacon*, most, though not all, of his quotes are preceded by "St. Bernard saith," or "Cicero saith...."
Standard journalistic practice, according to my paltry understanding, would be to insert a clause such as "as he said in an interview on 2point8...," which does not fatally interrupt the flow of the text, for me.
Bottom line: I'm not sure this lapse disqualifies the book from purchase, but for me it might. (Just depends on how I feel about it when it comes down to making the purchase decision.) As Michael says in his own conclusion, "...they copied-and-pasted passages off the Web and failed to cite their sources." Thumbs down on that.
*This is a particularly nice edition, by the way. I love the name "Peter Pauper Press."
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.