The Real Paul Jones

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Bama Librarian Nails Plagiarist

A Warren-Wilson alum alerts us to this Library Journal article:

AL Librarian Catches Plagiarist
By Staff — January 15, 2006

In October, Margaret Butler, a librarian at the Tuscaloosa Public Library (TPL), AL, chose for her collection Brad Vice’s short story volume The Bear Bryant Funeral Train (Univ. of Georgia Pr.), winner of its publisher’s Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. But Butler, an avid reader in Southern literature, noticed similarities between Vice’s text and Carl Cramer’s Stars Fell on Alabama (1934; reprint. Univ. of Alabama Pr., 2000) and notified TPL’s assistant library director Elizabeth Bradt. They contacted both publishers, and Georgia agreed to recall all copies, pulp the book, and rescind the award. “I’ve lived here a long time and read most everything about Tuscaloosa or Bear Bryant or Alabama that I see,” Butler told LJ. “I just had a feeling that [Vice] felt nobody would’ve read Cramer’s book.” While the remaining copies of Bear Bryant are now collectibles, several libraries around the country still have it. Said Butler, “We pulled them off the circulating shelf, but since it’s local history, we’ll probably keep them.”

But Wikipedia has a more fleshed out version of the story of the story here. Vice has his defenders.

One of Vice’s defenders is Jake York the editor of Thicket ,where both Carl Cramer’s “Flaming Cross” and Vice’s “Tuscaloosa Knights” were printed together in the same issue. York and those who comment on his defense “Fell In Alabama: Brad Vice’s Tuscaloosa Night” at storySouth blog conflate the concepts of copyright and plagiarism — they are not the same.

One of the Vice offenders, Robert Clark Young (who is not a completely pure character himself), wrote in a tough piece in New York Press that there were additional plagarisms from Vice and pointed out another story which had appeared in Atlantic Monthly was plagarised. Young went to Vice’s University of Cincinnati dissertation and found the same plagarisms in place.

But Young also took shots at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Barry Hannah, Tony Earley and others. This lead to Jason Sanford of StorySouth pointing out that Young had previously attacked the Sewanee Conference. In Sanford’s mind, Young had a vendetta against the conference.

But there is more (and this has been played out over several months now. See wikipedia for links to all sides. And more Vice defence seems to come daily from StorySouth.

My take. Perhaps Vice is practicing remix culture which is legal in the eyes of copyright, but by not crediting his sources he was also practicing plagiarism. Unlike say Pound or Eliot who also borrowed, he borrowed heavily and directly enough without crediting his sources and influences.


  1. My family told me “Stars Fell on Alabama” was a famous history of the state, known to everyone. Maybe they say that because it mentions our ancestors, the Sims (no really). Not in a flattering way, though.

  2. Kelly Daniels

    4/30/2007 at 11:05 am

    HELLO?! Vice titled the story in question TUSCALOOSA KNIGHTS, an obvious ironic take on “Tuscaloosa Nights,” a section from Stars fell over Alabama, which is why John Dufrense, another one of Vice’s defenders named his essay “Tuscaloosa (K)nights,” for all librarians who don’t understand allusion. That is attribution, though it really wasn’t necessary. Many great writers do the same without attribution especially if it was regional work everyone was familiar with. Frank Loyd Wright didn’t need to attribute his carpenters. Vice’s only mistake was assuming that the general reading public was as smart as him.

  3. Oddly enough, there is a family tradion of ours that the my great uncle’s manuscript, “Stars Fell on Alabama”, was stolen from him – he was a judge in Birmingham – later to be published in similar form by another person. This would have occurred circa the Great Depression.

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