Paul Greenberg

It's understandable why others' good stories and perfect phrases should tempt us to borrow them. What's not understandable is why people would steal bad prose. It's not the theft that troubles in such cases, but the poor taste of the thief.

The late Molly Ivins is my exemplar in these matters. When she was caught sounding word-for-word like Florence King - accidentally, of course - let it be said for Miss Molly that she had the taste to copy from the very best. Originality is a much overrated virtue compared to good taste in collecting.

To quote a once celebrated Southern author, James Branch Cabell, "very few sane architects commence an edifice by planting and rearing the oaks which are to compose its beams and stanchions. You take over all such supplies ready hewn, and choose by preference time-seasoned timber."

Hear, hear! I wish I'd said that. And someday I just might.

It's not imitation but plagiarism that is the highest form of flattery. But always call it Research!


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.