I do not know, and I have never claimed to know, anything about being an editor of creative or scholarly writing, but I think that uttering the word "plagiarism" in the precincts of a book or magazine (or ezine) publishing office must be like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.
Bored last week (the week between Christmas and New Year's, the quietest week of the year), I went on a Google search for my favorite plagiarist, Bert Cardullo. On page 2 I found something about a newly published book of his whose title made me nearly choke on my leftover eggnog. The link led me to the website of a small literary press - whose name I withhold out of what is probably misplaced fairness - where I found the book, Persistence of Vision: The 21st-Century Film Criticism of Stanley Kauffmann, edited by Cardullo, published last January. Accompanying a description of the book's contents was a blurb from Gary Bettison from a review of the book published at Senses of Cinema.
The article was like a perfect storm for me - a combination of benign climatic conditions that produce a destructive gale. The article combined the work of Stanley Kauffmann, the man who was for decades the doyen of American film criticism, with Cardullo, who is becoming a by-word for literary thievery, with Senses of Cinema, the very website at which I published in 2007 the first public notice of Cardullo's plagiarism.
In the interests of the truth, that most elusive of chimeras, I contacted the director publishing house, expressing my outrage that Cardullo should bestow on himself the honor of editing the work of a man from whom he stole on repeated occasions. The director (who shall remain shameless) responded by saying that she doesn't plan on publishing a new book with Cardullo, but that I shouldn't make such formal accusations of plagiarism to a publisher "without solid proof." We went back and forth more than a dozen times about my proof before I realized that I was whipping a dead horse.
Her replies to my insistence that she had published the work of a well-known plagiarist were disingenuous, I think, of even a "small press" (her words) publisher. Evidently bothered by my use of the words "make money," the publisher defended herself by informing me that the pittance that such "academic books" earn is scant justification for plagiarism. Then she asked me if I had contacted Yale University Press and all the other publishers Cardullo has taken advantage of.
I explained that publications prior to the exposure of Cardullo's plagiarism were outside my reach, but that I regard it as open season for publications of books made since his exposure. I told her that "there is little I can do about the publishers over whose eyes Cardullo has already pulled the wool, so to speak."
Then she told me a little about her job as an editor and that there has to be "solid proof" of plagiarism "in the specific book" already published before they can withdraw the book from print. So even if someone proves that an author has committed plagiarism before, it doesn't disqualify all of his books from consideration for publication. I asked her, if she owned a gallery and someone had informed her that a painting on her wall was the work of a known forger, would she leave it hanging there? To this she wrote, "If I spent an enormous amount of time designing the frame and room etc. for a work by somebody that might have forged other works of art and after I hanged them up somebody said he might have forged stuff before and I hadn't made money for all my work - I'd do what I'm doing now and that's not get any more works from the artist but also not throw away all my work. My design etc. isn't a forgery and you should have some respect for a publisher's work."
So, to paraphrase, I shouldn't interfere with her work with such trivial information about the questionable integrity of an author's work that she has published and I should mind my own business. And to top everything off, she told me that only an author who is a victim of Cardullo's plagiarism has a legitimate grievance. If I spend $700 for an Apple i-phone, only to discover that it isn't a genuine i-phone but a cheap Chinese knock-off, it's only Apple that has a reason to complain?
My business, she then brought to my attention, was akin to an "obsession" with Bert Cardullo, that I was "on a mission" to destroy the man's career and that I might consider seeking therapy. In my last (I promise) email to her, I told her that, given the negligible results of my efforts to inform both publishers and the public of Cardullo's crimes, I wished I had left the Cardullo book I found so many years ago on the shelf at the Anchorage Public Library where I found it. Without realizing it, I was echoing that marvelous thown-away line spoken by Claude Rains near the end of Lawrence of Arabia. Playing the role of Mr. Dryden, he is asked what he thinks about the end of the war in the desert in which Lawrence had played such an important but thankless part. With classic airy resignation, Rains says, "Well, on the whole, I wish I'd stayed in Tunbridge Wells."