Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Caught Making Up Quotes, Author Quits New Yorker

Jonah Lehrer - Pop!Tech 2009 - Camden, MEJonah Lehrer  (Photo credit: poptech) Thirty-one-year-old wunderkind Jonah Lehrer, a Columbia grad and author of three best-selling books, this week resigned as staff writer for The New Yorker after admitting to a magazine writer that he fabricated quotes in his latest book.

Michael Moynihan, a writer for Tablet Magazine, which writes about Jewish life, confronted Lehrer regarding quotes Moynihan was unable to verify that Lehrer attributed to legendary folk singer Bob Dylan in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works (2012). Lehrer admitted fabricating the quotes, according to an account in The Huffington Post. "The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes," Lehrer confessed.

Lehrer, author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist (2007) and How We Decide (2009), recently apologized to New Yorker readers for re-using his own previous work without attributing it. Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has pulled the e-version of Imagine and stopped shipment of the hardcover.

Things are not going well for Lehrer, as even fabricator extraordinaire Jayson Blair, who wrote fiction for The New York Times, unbeknownst to the paper, weighed in with an article in The Daily Beast on what may have prompted Lehrer to torpedo his own career.  The staff of "TUOL" is unsure whether laziness or just a lack of journalistic sensibilities is to blame, and puzzled as to how Lehrer could have believed his putting words in Dylan's mouth wouldn't be discovered, particularly because the quotes made sense, which would make any Dylan fan suspicious.

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