Players: Emily Green, environmental journalist who writes for the Los Angeles Times; Alex Prud'homme, great-nephew of Julia Child and the author of The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century, a book that "will change the way we think about the water we drink"
The Opening Serve: Green contends that Prud'homme plagiarized parts of his book from a five-part article she had written about Las Vegas's water supply for the Las Vegas Sun. She writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books, "So, I find myself wondering, what am I going to do about the man who I think plagiarized me," she wrote. "Sue him? I’ve bleated to a few lawyers. Humiliate him in front of his editor? I’ve written her. Shame him? I’m writing this." Green recounts a story of being approached by a producer at Patricipant Media (An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc.) in regards to an upcoming book adaptation. She shared her sources with him assuming she'd appear in the the movie. "Standing in Vroman’s, holding The Ripple Effect, it seemed likely that this was the book that Participant was adapting," she wrote. "Sure enough, there was a Vegas chapter." It's passages in that Vegas chapter that Green points to in objecting to Prud'homme's work. Throughout her article she highlights similar phrases and research that appeared in her story and Prud'homme's book, 13 in total, Green claims on the Los Angeles Review of Books Web site (for Green's formal response and side-by-side comparison click here). She writes that the "moment" that "made [her] blood boil ... came on seeing Prud’homme’s scene-setting." Here's the comparison:
Las Vegas lies at the intersection of three deserts. To the west is the Mojave, to the south the Sonoran, and to the north the Great Basin.
Las Vegas sits at the intersection of three deserts. To the south is the Sonoran, to the west is the Mojave, and to the north lies the Great Basin.
The similarities in those two passages caught the eye of outsiders like Jon Fleck, a journalist in New Mexico. Who writes, "Savor that simple four-word phrase: 'intersection of three deserts.' In the entire corpus indexed by Google, that phrase appears to have been written only three times...Sadly for Emily, Prud’homme’s book is the first Google hit." Green was livid, as she recounts at the Los Angeles Review of Books: "As anger ebbs and flows through my veins, I don’t know what I want from Prud’homme," she wrote. "There is no right response and there are plenty of wrong ones, including the one that I made after getting home from Vroman’s [a book store], which was to send him a drunken message via his website..."