The Jonah Lehrer Lies: But why?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Late last Friday afternoon, a client and I were discussing Jonah Lehrer.  My client had seen Lehrer talk, we'd both read Imagine. We liked the provocative style of Lehrer's work, his easy translations of harder-concept things. We liked that a guy like Lehrer got so much attention in a Fifty Shades world.

But just today, a few minutes ago, I was checking out at the grocery store, when my phone buzzed. It was my client, sharing a link to this Josh Voorhees Slate story, titled "Jonah Lehrer Resigns From New Yorker After Making Up Quotes."

I raced home to read the story on the full screen.  I churn now, within—confused, more than anything, as to why a young man as successful as Jonah Lehrer most certainly is would find it necessary, first, to fabricate Dylan for his book, and, second, to spin a complicated tangle of lies in the aftermath of being found out. Lie after lie.  Preposterous lies.  Not exaggerations, but lies.

Why do such a thing?  Why cannibalize a rising-star career?  Why jeopardize the faith of readers, an editor, friends?  Writers make mistakes—we all do, I absolutely do—but deliberate deceit is hardly a mistake.  Deliberate deceit is intentional, and designed.  It can't feel good.  Nothing will make it right.

There can only be, when lying as overtly as this, a terrible anxious rush in the middle of the night.


Richard Gilbert said...

You know, I felt the Dylan part of his book was fishy. To begin with I disagreed with his interpretation of a song's reception. Then I wondered where he got the quotes—Dylan gives few interviews—and wondered why he didn't credit them.

It was unnecessary but expedient, I guess.

The1stdaughter said...

It's all so surprising. I'm just in shock that someone would get as far as he did with all of this undertow pulling on him. It's too bad because he seems like a very intelligent person who happened to get in over his head. I'm also surprised his publisher didn't ever catch onto it. Makes the world seem a bit sadder to know people feel the need to do things like this. :(

Serena said...

Wow, that's terrible. I wonder why the publishers or someone did not catch it...should these quotes not have been verified before publication?

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