A Bit Disconcerting

Writers read – a lot.  For many reasons.  Out of all of the things we do, other than writing, it is, in my opinion, the other most important part of our work.  We should read.  It’s been suggested, by many successful writers, reading is critical and important, and really not just to writers, but everyone.  Just to emphasize that point, here are a few quotes by famous authors about that very thing:

  • “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” — Henry David Thoreau
  • “We read to know that we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis
  • “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde
  • “Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” — Nora Ephron
  • “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” — Stephen King
  • “We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them. Don’t sleep with people who don’t read!” — John Waters

Evidently, reading was especially important to John Waters.  Anyway, reading teaches us more about writing than I can possibly cram into this post.   But let’s start with the fact that, depending on our intentions as we begin to read a particular book, it’s a way of allowing us to view another writer’s work and to study it.  We can see how they cobbled together their stories, how they constructed a sentence.  We can review their descriptive word choices, see how they came up with characterizations, described settings, and marvel at the creativity of their plots.

And studying another author’s work is really all we should be doing, before applying it in our own unique way.  This is why this recent story about Nic Pizzolatto “borrowing” some of his favorite author’s works was a bit disconcerting.  And there was this story too, directly from those accusing him.  And there are more, just Google Pizzolatto’s name and plagiarism.  Yikes.  It’s all over the place.

However, I like to wait and see all the facts before I jump to conclusions.  I like to hear from the guy himself, see what he has to say.  In one article, it was stated that for fan’s of Ligotti, Pizzolatto was only giving a “nod,”, a sort of a wink, wink to them.  And then there’s this argument about how it should be no different than musicians who study other musician’s and then take what they’ve done and change it up into something of their own.

I don’t know.  I’m on the fence because I loved TRUE DETECTIVE, and I loved GALVESTON, and I personally want more, more, more Nic Pizzolatto.  On the other hand, the similarities to Ligotti’s THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE are…well, like I said, a bit disconcerting.

What do you think?





I’ve read a bit more since posting this and I’m landing on the side of Nic Pizzolatto. I think it’s fine for someone writing a fictional character into a TV show to “borrow” similar lines from a writer – as in, yes, he sort of had the same phrasing as THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE by Ligotti, (human thresher = thresher, and meat = meat, etc, etc.) in Rust Cohle’s dialogue, but it wasn’t verbatim. And I think it’s also fine if you have this character, who’s maybe read Ligotti (maybe that’s what Pizzolatto was doing – making it seem like Rust Cohle had read Ligotti’s work) and then spews his way of thinking. It’s different if you’re writing a paper for exams or something – that’s a lot more stringent. So, maybe we should call BULLSHIT! on it, right?


    Right! He borrowed some ideas from Ligotti, some from Chambers (who borrowed from Neely), some from his parents and his teachers and the internet and the Bible, and he put them all together and built something of his own. That’s WRITING!


I am not disconcerted and I wouldn’t call it plagiarism. I’m reasonably sure that Ligotti culled his ideas from someone else and reshaped them into his own thing. After all, none of us lives in a vacuum.


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