Twelve days ago I described my discovery of some possible plagiarism, and other unsavory journalistic shenanigans, in a Nautilus article by Robert Levine. That article, about the botfly that I acquired in my head as a graduate student visiting Costa Rica, was characterized as an except from his book Stranger in the Mirror: The Scientific Search for the Self, published by Princeton University Press on May 10.
The excerpt not only contained wording clearly taken from an account of my botfly in earlier book by friends of mine (Tropical Nature by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata, Scribner’s, 1984), but also seemed to attribute quotes that I gave Robert Krulwich on Radiolab to an interview with Levine himself. In fact, I’d never spoken to Levine.
I notified Princeton University Press (PUP), Nautilus, Scriber’s, and Radiolab about this, for they would have to be the ones hashing this out. Nautilus published a correction, attributing my quotes to Krulwich and not Levine, but didn’t address the words copied from the 1984 book, which I considered true plagiarism. And, despite my having written them twice, they didn’t even have the decency to reply.
At any rate, curious about what had happened, I looked up the book on Google two days ago, and found both the Princeton University Press link and the Amazon links:
But if you click on the Princeton website, you got this:
Note, though, that other things about the book remain on the PUP site (e.g., an interview with the author).
And if you click on the book’s Amazon site, you got this:
But when I clicked on another Amazon link today, I got the notice of the book, but with no publication date given.
On the Nautilus site there’s still the original notice:
What’s up? I knew PUP was conducting a serious investigation of the book with lawyers and editors, because they told me. Now, from the book’s absence from both their site and its changed status on Amazon, I conclude that the book has been withdrawn from publication. That would have been an expensive endeavor for PUP, as the book had surely been sent to bookstores and would have had to be destroyed.
It’s a fair guess that PUP found sufficiently serious problems with the book to remove it from publication. I don’t know what those problems are, of course, but they could include not only the mistakes I found, but others. The fact that it’s now been put back on Amazon implies that they may be trying to fix the book, rendering it suitable for publication. But even that means they had to withdraw it and destroy it.
Time will tell.