Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Book reviews. Cheating. The Lessons of Lehrer –gate

Dust Storm by LunarBlitz (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When the Dust Settles

Just in case you were on holidays and missed it all, I’ll fill you in – Summer 2012 was rich on scandals in the book circles. Porter Anderson has been working hard to inform us about some immoral behavior in the community,  I can’t recommend  enough his weekly Ether.

So, fake reviews . A self-publishing sensation John Locke  confessed  that he bought many readers’ reviews for his titles, which may partially explain his commercial success.

A crime fiction author RJ Ellory was caught practising sock puppetry. He used to write terrible reviews for rivals’ books and praised his own creations using false identities (several Amazon accounts were of help).

But this is all the money stuff. Has anyone actually succeeded in creating a multi-million business honestly? What about Facebook’s origin and Winklevosses suing Zuckerberg? I can understand this kind of cheating; it’s a capitalist market after all. The main thing – not to be caught.

However, writing and content are a lot more sensitive matter.

In July 2012, the rising star of pop science journalism Jonah Lehrer resigned from his post in New Yorker after it was revealed that he  somehow confused fiction with non-fiction: in his latest book  Imagine …  he fabricated Bob Dylan’s quotes. WTF?  You may be surprised by the sheer ridiculousness of it. Turns out it was just the top of the iceberg . The Imagine book indeed proved to be the work of most powerful imagination.

The story continued after the exposé on Lehrer’s “sloppy” writing at, which included self-plagiarism and press-release snitching.

Spoken lies can be forgotten, but the written word … It’s a permanent taint.

Rumour has it Lehrer is playing the scandal well – a book on how we falsify things? I’d call it The Science of Lies, feel free to use this title, no need to thank me.

So what are the lessons of Lehrer-gate?

  • Don’t cut corners; otherwise you may as well be cutting off your own fingers in the process. Cheating maybe invisible like a chronic dormant infection, but it may kill you one day.
  • There may be no second chances once you lose your reputation or peers’ trust.
  • Respect your consumer, reader, friend, whoever …  especially if you want to be treated the same way. No fake reviews, quotes, etc.  If you are prone to lying, use it in your fiction, it’s an art of deception  after all.

Almost two centuries ago Russian genius  Aleksandr Pushkin  wrote in one of his novels:

Take care of your dress when it is new,  and of your honour when you are still young

Not the worst advice to consider.

I won’t lie I’ve sinned myself but still tried and try to avoid cheating. I always remind myself that cutting corners to achieve fame and material success is pathetic in the face of eternity.

Have you ever come across Locke/Ellory/Lehrer-like cases? What do you think about them? Was cheating worth it? Is the scale of prize important in persuading yourself to cheat?  I think it’s good to consider those questions when in doubt.

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