Author and journalist Jonah Lehrer, already under scrutiny for apparently plagiarizing a number of his own past articles and essays in recent works, was forced to step down from his post as staff writer for The New Yorker on July 30, after it was discovered that he had fabricated a significant number of Bob Dylan quotes in his bestselling book Imagine: How Creativity Works. Progressive Boink has exclusively obtained a copy of Mr. Lehrer's resignation letter to New Yorker editor David Remnick, which we present here in its entirety.
Dear Mr. Remnick:
It is with great sadness that I resign from my position as a staff writer for The New Yorker, effective immediately. It has been an honor to contribute to what I truly believe is the finest American home of the storied discipline of belles-lettres, and I can only hope that my careless actions have not done lasting damage. I believe it was Marcel Proust who once said, "If ever a young neuroscience grad rises to a position of prominence as a pop science writer for the smart set, please let him resign from his main job and leave it at that. And maybe give him a book deal for a memoir or thinly veiled autobiographical novel detailing his rise and fall."
Of course it is more elegant in the original French, but I cannot help but find in those words not only a number of startling parallels to the situation I currently find myself in, but also some measure of solace. Unfortunately, the document from which I copied down that particular quote was made of a particularly fragile type of paper, and it dissolved when it came in contact with direct sunlight. But it was totally real. It was a page from Proust's diary, but except it was a special edition and there was only one in existence, and that's the one that dissolved. Unfortunately! I got it from the library at Oxford University, when I was a Rhodes Scholar there. It was from somewhere in the back part of the library. Near, uh. Near the Garfield compilations.
I am reminded of another quotation. "Dance like nobody's watching," Bob Marley once wrote. "Love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening. Live like it's heaven on earth." How true, those words -- as true as they were the day the Sage of Saint Anne Parish himself wrote them down in an early draft of "Redemption Song," which I obtained from a representative of his estate. But I was told that I was the very last person on earth who would ever be allowed to read the lyrics sheet, and also that everyone connected to the Marley estate would deny knowledge of my existence to if anyone started sniffing around to verify the quote. Also there's a Rastafarian curse on asking questions about the veracity of Bob Marley quotes, and the curse only grows stronger each time it is tested.
"Grievous misfortune will befall he who dares look into specifics of any purported Bob Marley quotes," the curse, composed by Haile Selassie himself, is said to warn. "Jah will smite thee," it continues. This was told to me by an old Jamaican man who heard it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The kindly old Jamaican man -- Ol' Kingston Joe, I believe his name was -- has since died, leaving no heirs.
I must admit that on some level I relate to Ol' Kingston John. Joe. For just as he passed beyond the vale of tears and into the realm of death, so have I entered a sort of spiritual death, an involuntary quieting of the voices that animate, sustain, bring the call to sally forth in all things. Webster's Dictionary defines sacrifice as the "destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else," which is absolutely not the opening sentence I used in my eighth grade essay on the theme of religion in Lord of the Flies. So don't bother hassling my parents to hand over the Trapper-Keeper of essays I wrote for Miss Hanley's class that's currently sitting in the closet of my childhood room. There would be nothing for you there.
Anyway, I believe I have sacrificed enough. Excessive sacrifice is as ruinous to those who lustily and bloodthirstily call for it as it is to the most aggrieved sacrificers, as Dostoevsky might say -- and he did, in those exact words, except in Russian. The quote in question is from a particularly unabridged edition of Crime and Punishment that I read a few months ago, but then I dropped it in the bathtub so the pages are all ruined. And I think it's out of print otherwise.
So yeah, I resign. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, "I, Jonah Lehrer, very much enjoyed writing for The New Yorker for the brief time I was there as a full staff writer. I will now console myself with a giant pile of money in my enormous mansion. Seacrest out." That was in a love letter to Zelda that my grandfather recovered from the smoldering remains of Highland Hospital after Zelda's death. I had the only copy, but I dropped it between my fridge and the wall while I was making ants on a log the other day, so that's why nobody else has ever seen it.