the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Plagiarism, Lies, and Total BS in Writing


This weekend in Los Angeles was the 11th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.   It's an enormous literary event attracting  thousands of readers to the UCLA campus to attend lectures by such high-profile writers as Frank McCourt, Mitch Albom, Mary Higgins Clark, Joan Didion, Sebastian Junger, Joyce Carol Oates, Gay Talese, Amy Tan, Susan Vowell, and Gore Vidal.

I was very honored to be asked by the festival organizers to moderate one of the most controversial seminars, titled "Plagiarism, Lies, and Total BS in Writing." The panel consisted of several noted writers:

Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard undergraduate who's been accused of liberal 'borrowing' for How Opal Mehta got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.  I had just written a post about her, so I was very familiar with her situation.

James Frey, who wholly fabricated details of his outlaw life in order to sell his book, "A Million Little Pieces."

Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who faked quotes and even entire interviews, and plagiarized from other newspapers.

Michael Hiltzik, who just lost his LA Times "Golden State" column this weekend after it was found out that he was putting phony comments on his own LA.Times blog.

William Shakespeare, noted dramatist and poet, who plagiarized most of his historical plots from Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles.

A complete transcript of the seminar can be found at the book festival website.


  1. "M. Hiltzik"

    I really am disgusted that you would use my name here in this obviously phony comment. Have you no shame?

    M. — formerly with the LA Times.

  2. "K. Viswanathan"

    Neilochka, if that is your "real" name — I hated your last post. I am not a plagiarist. You are a plagiarist! A plagiarist of yourself — you did this phony comment gag already, asshole. Or are you so creatively bankrupt that you need to steal from yourself?

  3. Neil

    Kaavya — Creatively bankrupt, maybe. But stealing from yourself is not plagiarism.

  4. "K. Viswanathan"

    What the hell do you know? I am young, attractive, and go to an Ivy League School, so I can say what I want.

  5. Neil

    I went to Columbia. That’s an Ivy League school.

  6. "K. Viswanathan"

    Yeah, right. I mean a REAL Ivy League School. Like Harvard or Yale.

  7. "J. Blair"

    I went to Yale.

  8. Neil

    You went to University of Maryland, College Park, Jayson. Can’t you ever stop lying?

  9. "J. Frey"

    You are a bunch of upper class losers, fighting over what stupid school you went to. I’m the only real ARTIST here, the one who had to fight his way up from the tough streets, my wild days, and my drug addiction —

  10. Neil

    James, I thought you already apologized on Oprah for making all that up. Why are you still throwing out this crap?

  11. "J. Frey"

    That Kaavya is pretty hot. I’m trying to impress her. I think she likes the bad boys.

  12. Neil

    James, she’s like nineteen years old.

  13. "J. Frey"

    I’m nineteen.

  14. "J. Blair"

    Me too.

  15. "M. Hiltzik"

    Me too.

  16. "W. Shakespeare"

    Lies, lies, lies.

    “Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself.”

    Haven't you ever heard that one?  I wrote it.  Cool

  17. "Sir Francis Bacon"

    Cut the crap, Bill. And when are you going to pay me for ghostwriting Hamlet?

  18. jen

    The trifecta of funny. I can’t decide which I like best. The entry, the comments, or S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT! Oh crap, I forgot about your lovely poem. That exceeds a trifecta. But shoddy writing is what this is all about, so trifecta it is!

  19. lizardek

    You? are insane. And I mean that in the best possible way.

  20. justrun

    Wow. And I mean that in a good way.

  21. Bre

    I wish I had half of your energy and creativity!!

  22. Edgy Mama

    Holinshed? I’m going with the Marlowe theory.

    This was a perfect seminar for you to moderate, Neil!

  23. Jenni

    At first I wasn’t sure…the Festival of Books? Then I read about the panel and I assumed it was going to be GREAT, with fists flying and pseudo drugs being taken, chairs being thrown, people passing out in the aisles…sweet. And then came the laundry which brought me back to my origional assumption of a book fair being about as fun as doing a load of laundry. This post brought me full circle.

    I love it.

  24. scott

    This is a total ripoff of a post I recently did called, “Lies, Plagiarism, and BS in the Writing”, or something like that. How despicable!

    Very funny.

    Hello, Neil.

  25. M.A.

    Jayson Blair ‘went’ to Maryland, not Yale.

  26. stephanie

    Pure genius!

  27. cruisin-mom

    Neil, you are a genius…you must get a spot on Oprah.

  28. Kevin

    The comments were even better than the post! Thanks!

  29. MLB

    Brilliant stuff. I wish you’d consider hosting an online seminar on original writing… with this cast of characters as the featured speakers.

  30. Dagny

    I was thinking that perhaps if I spent less time going out that perhaps I could turn out quality posts like yours. Then it dawned on me that that simply isn’t necessary. Why should I expend energy writing when I can simply borrow from your posts?

  31. Trixie

    You really do have too much free time on your hands…

  32. amanda


  33. better safe than sorry

    william shakespeare was on that panel? sweet. can i be 19 too or does me having a 21 year old daughter disqualify me?

  34. AWE

    Are you sure that picture isn’t the immigrants marching?

  35. claire

    What a nice companion panel to the one I caught part of on BookTV last night called “Playing President” (or maybe that was just one of panelist’s book titles…)

  36. mrsmogul

    WOW! William SHakespeare was there?! I thought he was dead! You know, I haven’t read a book in eons…it’s sad..I can’t get past picture board books at this stage!

  37. Rabbit

    You make me laugh.

  38. Michele

    Neil, seriously. When are you having my baby?

  39. Bad at Life

    Very, very funny…and a bit postmodern. I really enjoyed the comments.

  40. Dustin

    Kaavya is cute. Too bad she’s the worst fake writer ever.

  41. kimananda

    If only I could have been there. Of course, if I could have been there, then I would probably have been in San Francisco instead hanging out with my family. Maybe you all could do a repeat at some SF book event? 😉

  42. Buffy

    Ok. I’m not as ‘in the know’ as I should be. Just wondering…did Kaavya get into Harvard before or after she wrote Opal.

  43. Neil

    Good question, Buffy. I’m assuming it was afterwards, but I don’t know for sure.

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