February 7, 2007

The Mother of All Reading Lists

The Mother of All Reading Lists

As you may have noticed, we like to provide Extra Credit Reading Lists to accompany our shows. Jonathan Lethem’s The Ecstasy of Influence, the subject of tonight’s show, came with a reading list in a can. The article’s bibliography, itself a multi-layered masterpiece, has all the scholarly referents that a radio listener could ask for. Thing is, it’s a little opaque for our Open Source purposes. No links.

Today, I tracked down as many of Lethem’s sources as I could find. Not all. The quotes aren’t all direct; there’s bound to be some Lethem mixed in with the authors I’ve cited. It’s been a long day, though near the end of it I’ve had a revelation. Artists have forever copied the masters to learn a craft. We memorize The Wasteland, we crouch down in museums with our pens and our sketchbooks. I’d like to write for a living someday, so I’ll write off today as an exercise in honing the craft of research.

Extra Credit Reading

Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence, Harper’s, January 31, 2007.

Michael Maar, The Two Lolitas, Verso, October 2005: “Another hypothesis is that Nabokov, knowing Lichberg’s tale perfectly well, had set himself to that art of quotation that Thomas Mann, himself a master of it, called ‘higher cribbing.'”

David McNair and Jayson Whitehead, “Love and Theft”, Gadfly Online, December 10, 2001: “Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan’s music.”

Jonathan Rosen, The Talmud and the Internet, Picador, 2006: “Literature has been in a plundered, fragmentary state for a long time.”

William Gibson, God’s Little Toys, Wired, July 2005: “By then I knew that this ‘cut-up method,’ as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever it was he thought he was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be akin to magic.”

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs, NYU Press, April 2003: “‘There’s been some blues played like that,’ [Muddy] Waters replied. ‘This song comes from the cotton field and a boy once put a record out–Robert Johnson. He put it out as named ‘Walkin’ Blues.’ I heard the tune before I heard it on the record. I learned it from Son House.'”

Kembrew McLeod, Freedom of Expression, Doubleday, February 2005: “Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of ‘open source’ culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked.”

Joanna Demers, Steal This Music, University of Georgia Press, February 2006: “Musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate them through allusion.”

William Gibson, God’s Little Toys, Wired, July 2005: “In Seventies Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry deconstructed recorded music, using astonishingly primitive pre-digital hardware, creating what they called ‘versions.'”

Kembrew McLeod, Owning Culture, P. Lang, 2001: “Visual, sound, and text collage–which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here, a folk pastiche there)–became explosively central to a series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrete, situationism, pop art, and appropriationism.”

Craig Baldwin, Copyright Criminals [trailer for a forthcoming documentary]: “In fact, collage… might be called the art form of the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first.”

Dave Itzkoff, The bear Who Was There at the Start of It All, The New York Times [Select], December 11, 2005: “Yogi never missed an opportunity to announce that he was smarter than the average bear. He seems to have outwitted a few copyright lawyers along the way: he took his moniker from the celebrated Yankees catcher, of course, and his tilted porkpie hat, his tie, his sonorous voice and his hipster mannerisms from Art Carney’s portrayal of Ed Norton on ‘The Honeymooners.'”

Richard Posner,On Plagiarism, The Atlantic Monthly, April 2002: “A writer may, for that matter, quote a passage from another writer just to liven up the narrative; but to do so without quotation marks–to pass off another writer’s writing as one’s own–is more like fraud than like fair use.”

Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage Books, 1983: “Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself.”

George L. Dillon, quoted in Rebecca Moore Howard, “The New Abolitionism Comes to Plagiarism”, Perspectives on Plagiarism, State University of New York Press, 1999: “Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses.”

Ned Rorem: “Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.”

Mary Shelley, Introduction to Frankenstein, 1831: “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”

Christian Keathley, Cinephilia and History, or the Wind in the Trees, Indiana University Press, 2006: “Andre Breton’s maxim ‘Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table’ is an expression of the belief that simply placing objects in an unexpected context reinvigorates their mysterious qualities.”

From Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture, Penguin Books, 2005: “Just as Walt Disney could take inspiration from Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., the Brothers Grimm, or the existence of real mice, the photographer should be free to capture an image without compensating the source.”

David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram,” A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, 1998: “For those whose ganglia were formed pre-TV, the mimetic deployment of pop-culture icons seems at best an annoying tic and at worst a dangerous vapidity that compromises fiction’s seriousness by dating it out of the Platonic Always, where it ought to reside.”

Steve Erickson, Our Ecstatic Days, Simon and Schuster, 2006: “We’re surrounded by signs, ignore none of them.”

Robert Boynton, The Tyranny of Copyright?, The New York Times Magazine, January 25, 2004: “Corporations like Celera Genomics have filed for patents for human genes, while the Recording Industry Association of America has sued music downloaders for copyright infringement, reaching out-of-court settlements for thousands of dollars with defendants as young as twelve.”

Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas, Vintage, 2002: “A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense.”

Jessica Litman, Digital Copyright, Prometheus Books, 2006: “Copies were once easy to find and count, so they made a useful benchmark for deciding when an owner’s rights had been invaded.”

Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers, Routledge, 1992: “In the children’s classic The Velveteen Rabbit, the old Skin Horse offers the Rabbit a lecture on the practice of textual poaching.”

Marilyn Randall, “Imperial Plagiarism,” Perspectives on Plagiarism, State University of New York Press, 1999.

Dizzy Gillespie, quoted by Martin Gayford, The funny man who brought joy to jazz, Telegraph, November 11, 2004: “Bird gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it. You can’t steal a gift.”

David Bollier, Silent Theft, Routledge, 2003: “One of the more difficult things to comprehend is that the gift economies–like those that sustain open-source software–coexist so naturally with the market.”

Michael Newton, Tsk, Ukh, Hmm, reviewing Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language by Daniel Heller-Roazen, London Review of Books, February 23, 2006: “That a language is a commons doesn’t mean that the community owns it; rather it belongs between people, possessed by no one, not even by society as a whole.”

Harry S. Truman, Address at the Opening of Everglades National Park, December 1948: “We have to remain constantly vigilant to prevent raids by those who would selfishly exploit our common heritage for their private gain.”

Steve Fuller, The Intellectual, Totem Books, 2006: “Does solving certain scientific problems really require massive additional funding, or could a computerized search engine, creatively deployed, do the same job more quickly and cheaply?”

Amy Taubin, The Ties That Bind, The Village Voice, May 1999: “Why would [Salinger] care that some obscure Iranian filmmaker had paid him homage with a meditation on his heroine?”

Sandra Day O’Connor, Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, 1991: “The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors but ‘to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’ To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work.”

Roland Barthes, From Work to Text, 1971: “The citations that go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read; they are quotations without inverted commas.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Quotation and Originality, 1876: “All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands.”

Brian Wilson, ‘Till I Die, Live At The Roxy Theatre: “I’m a cork on the ocean… I’m a leaf on a windy day/ Pretty soon I’ll be blown away.”

Saul Bellow, quoted by Adam Mars Jones, Saul’s flaws writ large, The Observer: “The name of the game is Give All. You are welcome to all my facts. You know them, I give them to you. If you have the strength to pick them up, take them with my blessing.”

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