Print & E-Book Copies Of Bestseller Pulled After Author Admits To Making Up Bob Dylan Quotes

Making up quotes from say, one of the most admired, researched and beloved American music icons might’ve seemed like a good idea to New Yorker magazine staff writer Jonah Lehrer when he was writing his book Imagine: How Creativity Works, but those fabricated words are going to cost his publishers a pretty penny. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said it’ll pull the book entirely from the market after Lehrer admitted to putting words in Bob Dylan’s mouth that he never said.

The book has already sold 200,000 copies since its debut in March, and now the company says it’s trying to figure out what to do next. Lehrer was busted by a reporter for Tablet Magazine who caught the fabrications and called him on it. After at first trying to give the reporter the runaround about where the quotes were from, Lehrer gave up and subsequently resigned from the New Yorker while apologizing to his readers.

“In light of the serious misuse of quotations admitted above, we are exploring all options available to us,” the publishing house said in a statement. “We are taking the e-book of ‘Imagine’ off-sale, and halting shipment of physical copies.”

Another spokeswoman told TheWrap.com that the e-book would be removed from all retail sites by the end of Monday.

No word yet on whether Houghton Miffling Harcourt will offer a refund to customers who already bought the book, but that could be what the “next step” is that it’s weighing in light of the situation.

Getting your money back would certainly not be out of bounds here (unless you want to hang on to it for laughs), so we hope Houghton decides a full refund for its readers is in order and have reached out to the company to see if that is a possibility.

Jonah Lehrer Publisher Pulls Bestseller ‘Imagine’ [The Wrap]

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  1. Captain Spock says:

    I would have liked to seen examples of some of the “quotes”

  2. Kabusted says:

    ANYONE who quotes Dylan is making stuff up. Who in the world can understand him?!?

  3. dolemite says:

    Well, as Ben Franklin said: “put not words into my mouth, nor any other bodily orifice”.

    • PragmaticGuy says:

      I think he said that right after the kite and key incident.

      • Tim says:

        Or like Abraham Lincoln said, “The problem with quotes on the internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity.”

  4. ahecht says:

    Someone would really demand a refund on an otherwise perfectly entertaining book because of a few fabricated quotes? Really?

  5. infinitemonkeys says:

    This is super-ironic since Bob Dylan has been accused of plagiarism himself, as recently as last fall: CNN and others report on Bob Dylan painting plagiarism.

    For those Bob Dylan fans and apologists out there (and I am actually a fan), I side with those saying his artworks were plagiarized since a) they were presented as based on his firsthand experiences and b) uncredited. Some paintings do replicate photos, but are not presented as original art nor ‘art based on his personal journey through asia’. That is deceptive at best, legal misrepresentation and theft at its worst. This is not the first time BD has been accused of plagiarizing, either. There are examples from his music as well.

    I say it’s ironic, however, since BD is often (perhaps usually) original in his music. It is just too bad he undermines his own intellectual property rights by stealing from others himself.

  6. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Sheesh. Interviewing sources and proper citing should be no-brainers for a staff writer. I guess even without a journalism degree and with only just a couple of clips I could do his job better.

    • MarkFL says:

      It’s not a matter of doing a poor job, it’s just fraud. You may have heard of Jayson Blair or James Frey.

  7. MarkFL says:

    Question: Suppose I purchased the book for Kindle. Amazon has the information in my account that I already bought the book. Can/will Amazon delete the book from my account without asking me if I want a refund?

    Does the same apply to Nook?

    • MMD says:

      This. I have the book but haven’t read much of it yet (except, funnily enough, the Dylan chapter). If I promise not to take it too seriously, can I still read the book I, ya know, bought and paid for?

  8. DemosCat says:

    Did Jonah Lehrer get his journalism degree from a diploma mill? What is it with journalists in recent years who seem to think it’s perfectly okay to make stuff up?

    What sort of classes are taught to journalism students? I’m imagining a course load like:

    * Advanced Dictation – Verifying assertions is old school! Just quote ‘em and be done with it.
    * Creative Interviewing – Subject not saying the right things? How to twist meanings.
    * Creative Research – Actual research is old school! How to fake it.

    • samonela says:

      It’s totally like Season 5 of The Wire!

      Life imitating art imitating life…

      Or…the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude.

    • MarkFL says:

      I see nothing in the article to indicate whether or not Lehrer has a degree in journalism or any other field. Journalism is not a licensed field — anyone can string words together and call himself a journalist or author.

      I can tell you from my past experience in advertising that anyone who knows how to use a pen (or pencil, or keyboard, or crayon) thinks he’s a writer.