Last summer, Katherine Losse published a memoir called The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network, which chronicled her time spent working for Facebook. The book made some waves, as it painted the early days of the social networking giant with a decidedly misogynistic brush.
Flash forward. In just a few days, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius author Dave Eggers is set to publish a novel called The Circle, which tells the story of a women who works for a "powerful internet company" based in California - one that "links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency" (per its official description).
Now, Losse is claiming that Eggers borrowed a bit too much from her memoir, and Eggers and his publisher are denying those allegations.
From Losse's recent post on Medium:
[S]ociety makes assumptions about women that make us guilty by default: our work is supposedly minor, less valuable, and limited to the personal, where the work of a white man is presumed to be “universal”, “essential”, and relevant to all. This assumption is how, when I published The Boy Kings about working at Facebook for five years and the impact Facebook has had on society, the media made the sexist assumption that this book was not important, because how could a woman writing about technology be important? How could a woman doing anything be important? The assumption the media makes in these instances is that something is not important unless a familiar, male white face does it. So, when Dave Eggers decided to write his story about a young woman working her way up through Facebook, the Wall Street Journal called it a treatment of “the essential issues of the day.” From all appearances, it is an unnervingly similar book, and I wrote it first (and I imagine mine is more authentic and better written, because I actually lived and worked in this world and am also a good writer). The difference is that Eggers is a famous man and I am not.
Her lengthy post concludes...
"If you are interested in the view of a woman from inside the corporate social networking monolith, please read my words before or in place of Eggers’. I promise you it will be worth it."
It's a strong allegation - and the most serious one that could be leveled in the literary world. As you would expect, Eggers has come to his own defense - he claims that he hadn't even heard of her book before the plagiarism allegations.
"I’ve just heard about the claims of Kate Losse that my novel, The Circle, was somehow based on a work of nonfiction she wrote. I want to make it clear that I have never read and have never heard of her book before today. I did not, in fact, read any books about any internet companies, or about the experiences of anyone working at any of these companies, either before or while writing The Circle. I avoided all such books, and did not even visit any tech campuses, expressly because I didn’t want The Circle to seem to be based on any extant companies or upon the experiences of any employees of any extant companies. Because The Circle has not been released, it’s my understanding that Kate Losse has not read my novel yet, so I trust that when she does read it she’ll understand that I have not read, and certainly never lifted anything from, her book," he says.
Losse seems to have based her theory on not only the general plot similarities, but on an excerpt of Egger's new book recently published in the New York Times. She's even taken to annotating a passage from her own book to show similarities between it and the recently previewed passage.
Egger's publisher, McSweeney's (which Eggers founded), has also taken to his defense:
We have recently been apprised that a blogger is claiming that The Circle, a novel by Dave Eggers, borrows from a nonfiction book this other writer authored. These claims are made every day about every conceivable book, but what makes this claim particularly bizarre is that this person has not seen or read The Circle.
To sum up: There is a person out there claiming that a book—a book she has not seen or read (because it hasn’t been published yet)—borrows from her own book, which neither we, nor the author of The Circle, has ever seen or, until yesterday, heard of.
The frivolousness of this claim is self-evident.
We trust that when this blogger actually reads The Circle, these claims will be rendered baseless and profoundly regrettable.
The Circle hit the shelves on October 8th. I guess people can make up their minds once they've fully digested it.
Image via Wikimedia Commons