Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Literary Theft

The Class of 2k8 blog is getting to be quite a hoot.

Last week, the feature was Liz Gallagher, author of the newly published The Opposite of Invisible. Next week it’ll be Lisa Schroeder, whose I Heart You, You Haunt Me is also out this month.

This week, various class members are blogging about things they “stole” for their books. (Not, I think, deliberately planned to coincide with the current brouhaha about romance novelist Cassie Edwards .) In 2k8’s case, the thefts are the likes of Elizabeth Bunce taking the name of a dog from Jane Eyre and Sarah Prineas studying Tolkien’s Elvish language to give her magic spells a little…well, magic.

This worries me, because I can’t think of anything I stole for The Unnameables. I know there has to be something. How could there not be? My mind’s a trash heap of trivia–surely there must be a line from Narnia or Harry Potter in there waiting to hit the page.

The Unnameables does create and quote a publication called A Frugall Compendium of Home Arts and Farm Chores by Capability C. Craft (1680)–sort of a combination of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Martha Stewart, and Miss Manners. I acknowledge in print a bunch of sources for the “tips” in the Compendium, my favorite being the sixteen-year-old George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation. I keep racking my brain to make sure I didn’t lift anything verbatim.

George’s reminders to himself about proper behavior bring home the fact that the Founding Fathers once were proper Englishmen. Here’s Tip #26: “In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.”

This one’s my all-time favorite, though: ”9th Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.”

OMG. While looking for quotes from George I found this: “keep your feet firm and even.” I did incorporate those exact words into one of the Book’s behests. Hmm. Better check with my editor.

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