Saturday, April 22, 2006


" To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research"


Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal. T.S. Eliot.

The recent legal donnybrook of trans - Atlantic proportions between Dan Brown (American)author of "Da Vinci Code" and Michael Baigent ( British), author of, "The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail"(in the is called,"Holy Blood, Holy Grail") moved the soul searching subject - plagiarism - which has been for almost ever on slow boil, to the front burner.
The British judge Peter Smith, after tortuous months of hearings,of charges and denials during which by his own admission he was tempted to run away from the avalanche of reading material thrown at him. Remember : White wigs and black robes do not a wise man make.
Dan Brown admitted to being inspired by his reading of " Holy Blood, Holy Grail" but rejected outright the charge of stealing. Judgment was in favor of American Dan Brown author of, " Da Vinci Code". As if though this was not enough a nondescript curator of the Moscow museum is making similar accusations.

There is a bottom line to all this. Both books have received publicity many fold more than the costs of litigation. The two books have gone into accelerated reprints.

It is in the light of the Brown - Baigent legal brouhaha that the following excerpts, quotations - some attributed, some not though authentic should be viewed.

" Swinburne stole from Keats and Brahms used a theme from Beethoven's Ninth for his First Symphony."

" We all work off each other" E.L.Doctorow, author of, " Ragtime"

" The most original authors are not so because they advance what is new, but more because they know how to say something as if it had never been said before." Johann Wolfgang Von

The title, " Gone with the wind" comes from an Ernest Dowson Goethe poem.

The title of Ken Kesey's popular novel, " One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" was lifted from the children's folklore: " flew East, One flew West, One flew over the Cuckoo's nest"

" They fake each other's literary wash"

" Once the poet lets go of his poem, it is no longer his. It belongs to any one who wants it, It's a gift" Stanley Kunitz.

" Well stolen is half written"

" Writers are readers moved to emulation."

" Shakespeare like Puccini was a notorious poacher"
Lorrie Moore, professor of English, University of Wisconsin.

" Words make their way in the world without a master, and any one with little cleverness can appropriate them." Deepak Chopra.

Cleverness is what Kaavya Viswanathan,the nineteen year old Harvard sophomore was found to be wanting. For her novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild And Got a Life" for which she is reported to have received an advance of $500,000.00, she had lifted passages into to from Megan Mc.Cafferty's novels, "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings" and also from Sophie Kinsella's, "Can You Keep A Secret"
Her defense - the copying was " Unconscious and Unintentional" cuts no ice. It did not pass muster either with the publishers or the public. It is indeed sad that at such a young age she should get a black eye. Egg all over her face.

You have not heard it all. Kaavya Viswanathan's infractions are small potatoes, sophomoric blunders at worst compared to what " author " John Kenney bragged to Larry King. He admitted copying F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" and from Dellilo's "White Noise" and is busy copying Jonathan Franzen's "Corrections"

Larry King: " Exact same, in the exact same order?"
John Kenney: "Identical"
Larry King: "Legal problems? Moral problems?"
John Kenney: "Not exactly. My agent and publisher are behind it 100%."

There is some more.
Here is what author Tom Wolfe who needs no introduction says in his book, " In Our Time."
" In 1976 and 1977, Roots was a best seller - on the non-fiction list - for six months. In 1977, it won a special Pulitzer award for history. In the form of a seven - part television series in 1977, it drew an audience estimated by the A.C. Nielson Company at 130 million, the biggest in the history of the medium. By the the end of 1977, the roots of the book itself had begun to show. Hayley had apparently helped himself to material from a novel called The African, by Harold Courlander. A British journalist went to Africa to retrace the steps of the clan Kinte-Haley and found out that much of what Haley wrote was based on made-up tales, to phrase it generously. All of which was in grand tradition of the man most historians credit with having originated the modern novel, Daniel Defoe. In 1719, Englishmen were convinced that Defoe really had come across the diary of a shipwrecked sailor named Robinson Crusoe, just as, a few years later, they believed that Richardson's Pamela really was made up of anguished bulletins from a pretty girl living in the house of an aroused and hard-stalking middle-aged lecher."

Referring to his 2006 annual spring address to the Labor party prime minister Tony Blair of Britain " has confirmed to friends that he drew inspiration for his long-sign off from a favorite passage of John Steinbeck's 1939 classic, " The Grapes of Wrath."
" He later admitted he had borrowed heavily from a speech from Tom Joad, the central character of Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the Great Depression."

Shakespeare borrowed the story for Romeo and Juliet from a fellow English writer, who got it from a french writer who translated the story from a 16th century Italian tale by Luigi da Porta, who swore it was based on fact. Charles Lamb on Shakespeare.

In Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare incorporated whole sentences from North's Plutarch in to his own text.


"The legend of Hamlet goes back hundres of years before Shakespeare. The bard apparently took assorted parts of the many stories about the Melancholy Dane(who was probably British in the first place),added his own magic,and came up with the play we know.
There apparently was such a man and he did live a prety violent life."

Extract frm "The Joy of Trivia" by Bernie Smith (available at the Hamden library)

K.B. Chandra Raj

Thursday, April 13, 2006


" A wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children. And by some strange irony it does not bind us children to our parents. For if it did, if we could answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor and we might be wonderfully happy."

E.M. Forster.

" Not that I remember it but so have I heard from the parents of my flesh, the father from whom, and the mother in whom you fashioned me in time."

Augustine in his " Confessions".


We are informed that Moses was given the TEN COMMANDMENTS
(also known as Decalogue)carved in stone by the finger of God himself.

As far as we know there were no foot notes as to how the commandments should be interpreted. And so street preachers and erudite academics began spinning it variously.

The Fifth Commandment, "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" raises the question: Why?.

Why should a child who did not ask to be brought into this world now be commanded to honor his parents?
We have a choice in choosing our partner in and for life. Even in cultures where one does not have the freedom to choose his partner he, very often she, by and large has the right of refusal.

We have a choice in deciding what the color of our living room is going to be. We have a choice of the make of the car we would like to own. We have a choice of the flavor of ice cream we wish to indulge in. Children and parents do not have a choice in picking each other.

Go back in time. During the days of apostle Paul when a child was born it was placed at the father's feet. If he bothered to pick it up the child lived. If he walked away the child was taken away to become a slave or a prostitute.

Duty between parents and children flow one way and one way alone - from parents to children. The parents who alone are responsible must take responsibility for their children. They owe it to the children and to society to nurse and nurture them to become responsible citizens. Else, they would be guilty of crime against their off-springs and society.

Perhaps the Commandment should be replaced with, " FATHER AND MOTHER HONOR THY CHILDREN, FOR THEY ARE THINE OWN CREATION."

Parents who have done their duty by their children in training them to become useful citizens have done no more than what is morally expected of them. They should not treat the resources they have expended on their children as investments and expect a return. How hollow it is to hear King Lear wail," How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." Thankful for what?. Even in the animal world the young ones are protected and fed until they can stand on their " own two feet."
And what is more " parents" do not call in their chips, ever.

Why then do parents go to extra ordinary lengths to see their children excel?. History is suffuse with examples. Suffice it is to cite two.

Sanjay L. Shah remained in the Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi, Kenya for nearly 13 months until he was granted British citizenship he was entitled to. He wanted his son in his teens to receive a British university education. He was a manual worker.

The father of tennis star of international fame Stefan Edberg mortgaged his only house to send his son to be coached in the United Kingdom.

Why do they do this ?

The mother: The umbilical chord of attachment between mother and child is never breached. That puts the lid on further discussion.

The father: Wants to see his children move the ball further down the field. Like a body builder pumping iron heaving under the weight adds another ten pounds to his heavy weight. Like a relay runner pumped out at the end of his lap hands over the baton to the new runner - his child - who is restlessly waiting, in fact beginning his run looking ahead with hand stretched back to get hold of the baton and make a dash for it. And the father looking on hoping the race will be won.

Children are an extension of one's self and seeing them succeed gives parents a vicarious thrill. A fulfillment. Aha self preservation. Self aggrandizement. Search for immortality.

" By their fruits ye shall know them" Bible. Mathew 7.20

A father admonishes his teen age son, " You act as if though you are smarter than me?"

" Of course I am " answers the son.

" How come ?" the father asks with mild irritation.

"Because" replies the son bemused, " Your father was a small time farmer but mine is a justice of the Supreme Court."

".. and the fruits will out do what the flowers have promised"

K.B.Chandra Raj

Saturday, April 01, 2006

On Grief - The death of a spouse - By : K.B.Chandra Raj

" Of all the wonders I have heard it seems to me most strange that man should fear,
Seeing death, a necessary end, will come when it will come."
Julius Caesar.

So my friend, "... go not like the quarry- slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed by an unfalterable trust,
Approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him,
And lies down to pleasant dreams."


On a sultry summer night Jay Follet forty one years old, married and father of two living in Knoxville, Tennessee gets a call from his brother that their father is dying. His wife hurriedly knocks up his favorite dish to fortify him for the long ride. He does not wish to wake up the children - kisses them while they are asleep. Kisses his wife while reminding her to make up her mind what she would like for a birthday present. The father's illness turns out to be a false alarm. On his way back to the family Jay is killed in a car accident.
James Agee in the rest of the novel, "A death in the family" narrates with laconic precision and poetic intensity, in the best words in the best order how grief gets an icy death grip on the family and changes their lives whole sale in a trice.

Grief cares not whether you are a minimum wage earner at the Big Mac window intoning, "Next Please", an Anthony, a Cleopatra or a twenty first century Sultan of the stock market -one who has high rolled his way to fortune by fair or foul means. He reserves the right to blind side you at will and he will if he so chooses.

Grief knows not its depth until a dear one - child, spouse or sibling has departed.

Charles Dickens, who we believed like the ring master in a circus ring, could whip words to do his every bidding confesses, " No words can express the secret agony of my soul." Grief is personal. It is custom made and fashioned according to one's psyche. It matures and ripens in silence and introspection. It cannot be communicated. It does not just go away gently into the good night. It cannot be sliced and shared. It is your cross and you alone must carry it.

Sir Walter Raleigh confined to the Tower of London and condemned to be executed sent this note to his wife:

" Thy mourning cannot avail me. I am but dust."

The Egyptians opulently mummified their dead believing that the entombed would come to life at a future date. Alas, " In gilded tombs do worms in fold" we are told.

At death Shakespeare informs us we set out to " that country from whose bourn no traveler returns."

But Houdini with his trade mark counterfeit cockiness and braggadocio bragged to his many fans and comforted his wife who believed him that he would return after his death to tell it all. We are waiting.

Death the " Grim Reaper" is the greatest equalizer. He puts "finis" to the story of our lives. No second edition. No sequel. No instant replay. No more back aches and body aches that swing with the seasons. No more running with the hare and hunting with the hound in the corporate jungle. No more saving for a rainy day like ants gathering grain bit by bit. No more worry about long term health care - No more.

Why then do the living mourn the dead? Why do they permit grief to sear their soul and somatic self ? Why are effervescent and engaging personalities, fun to be with reduced to the size of dissolving ice cubes by grief?

Shock, numbness and disbelief are the initial reactions to the death of a spouse. They then give way to self pity.
Helen Keller who talked and heard with her fingers ; who saw not with the two seeing eyes that we are blessed with at birth, but saw even better with Shiva's third eye of wisdom she was endowed with must know a thing or two about adversity. She called self pity, "our dangerous enemy"

A single person is missing and the whole world is empty. And into this empty world enters an unwelcome guest. Loneliness - the continuous presence of absence. And he does not come alone. He brings with him his buddy, Fear. Fear that you will not be able to cope with new challenges from altered circumstances.
" Life with my husband was routine" said a wife, " but life without him is unbearable".
Days, weeks and probably going into years will be measured not by the calendar but by throbs of self - inflicted pain. Grief, loneliness, fear is not confined to homo sapience alone. Dolphins refuse to eat after the death of a mate. Geese search for the lost mate until they themselves become disoriented and die.
You curse your rotten luck. Why me ?

How does Cleopatra react on Antony's death?

"Noblest of men, woo't die?"
Hast thou no care of me?.Shall I abide
In this dull world which in thy absence is
No better than a sty?"

Has thou no care of me? Me, me me. In this dull world. To the charismatic, fun loving queen it's now a dull world. And in Antony's absence the world to her is no better than a sty.

Don't you see you are only thinking of yourself. So dear friend your grief has nothing to do with the dear one departed. You are sorry for yourself. You are scared.

This now is the terminal test by which you will be judged. Use what ever crutch you need to stand up with " Jacquellinesque" fortitude and dignity. Religion, inner strength, guts or gumption- anything. Anything that will save you from going to pieces,to rubble and ruin. Friend. Have you tried putting together the scattered shards of a shattered mirror?

If it is any comfort, know that things as bad as this and a hell of a lot worse have happened to millions of people before and will happen to millions of people hereto fore.

You have to cope my friend because you have no choice.

" Our birth is nothing but our death begun"

K.B. Chandra Raj