Posted by
Benjamin Leo
• 11.11.11 12:00 pm


It’s working: Every major news outlet in the country is dragging this guy over the coals. The crazy thing is that he grew up on the Upper West Side and I went to school with him. I think I know what he’s up to.

About ten years before Gavin McInnes started taking credit for inventing hipsters, there were hipsters. We didn’t call them hipsters (we called them “mods”) but they wore suit-pants and retarded thick-rimmed glasses, and had the same Williamsburg attitude that keeps me out of their neighborhood today.

Now as it turns out, I grew up on the Upper West Side with their leader, a kid named Quentin, who happens to be the Brooklyn “Plagiarist” that every major news outlet is raking over the coals this morning.

As far as I’m concerned, Quentin was the first hipster ever. This kid was listening to My Bloody Valentine and acting aloof on Bowery while Gavin was still in Canada playing in a terrible punk band.

Quentin was mean and insecure and smart, with a face like a kangaroo rat. He walked around all quiet and well dressed and brilliant, not showing anyone his writing because there was no Internet — a convenient excuse which allowed him to appear breathtakingly talented by just remaining silent.

I haven’t talked to the guy in 15 years, and I always thought he was just a pretentious douchebag; only now do I realize that he’s actually a genius.

Here’s my theory:

1. The guy was probably a highly skilled writer, but like any other artiste, nothing he wrote could ever be popular or make money because who GIVES a fuck about your novel on suburban Connecticut malaise.

2. He spent the last ten years working in a Park Slope book shop, watching Jonathan Safran Foer (a genius who knows how to write things real people want to read) sell books like hotcakes while his heroic underground authors continued to starve like My Bloody Valentine.

Aside: Never forget that the biggest lie — just as big a lie as Wall Street has ever told — comes from any artist who tells you he could choose to be a mainstream success if only he had less integrity.

3. Quentin decides to write a book that will get published and be popular: a towering feat in this literary economy, which proves that he’s both smart and immensely talented. (If it doesn’t, then why don’t you do it? Afraid carrying around all that money and pussy will strain your back?)

4. He decides to fuck with the system, constructing a brilliant scheme to sell millions of books, make himself famous and also give the finger to the literary world in a Banksy-esque subversive prank.

5. Sorry, there’s just too many directly copied passages for me to believe that he didn’t think he’d be caught. Go and look at the passages: There are 20 of them in the first 15 pages.

This is a very smart fucking guy we’re talking about, and it looks like he posted hundreds of directly copied paragraphs — lifted from classic spy thrillers — into a book targeted at a meticulously detail-oriented and geeky audience. Assassin of Secrets? C’mon. Either he’s mentally insane (and not in a Prozac / Smashing Pumpkins way) or he did this on purpose.

6. It’s working: Yes, he’s being bashed by the mainstream media, but James Frey had to suck Oprah’s dick while she called him a liar — and after that comparatively small price to pay, he’s a famous author with props and love and money.

7. Take a long term view of this scandal: If Quentin comes out of hiding in six months and says it was all a hoax, he’ll smell like the Sex Pistols of literature, having pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes and pretentiously proving how “easy” it is (for him) to beat the Steven King / Jonathan Lethem system.

He’ll be a downtown celebrity while simultaneously having the whole world dying to read whatever he writes next.

(Naturally, as soon as this scandal broke, his book went from #62924 to #127 on Amazon.)

8. What about the book’s publisher — Little Brown and co. — were they complicit in the scheme?

Well, remember the scene from Casino where all the slot machines in Robert DeNiro’s joint just happen to pay out at once? DeNiro comes downstairs, livid and fires the young manager.

“How is this my fault?” the kid asks.

“Listen, if you didn’t know you’re bein’ scammed, you’re too fuckin’ dumb to keep this job. If you did know, you were in on it. Either way, you’re out. Get out! Go on. Let’s go.”

So either the publisher knew or someone’s too dumb to keep his job. All things considered — especially given all the blurb-writers they’d be screwing over by letting this go to print — I’m going to bet on “dumb.”

Either “QR Markham” is a rebel genius, or I’m totally wrong and he’s a klepto moron psycho. Follow the money: If he’s rich and famous in ten years, it’ll look like I was right; if he hangs himself from a shower curtain rod, well then, I guess it was the latter.

-BENJAMIN LEO
@TheBenWord


Comments
  1. duh says:

    good shit

  2. Damn Straight says:

    In the internet era, no one can be so dumb as to think they won’t get caught. Remember in college when your philosophy professor was like “we have certain tools that can ascertain whether any portion of your work has been plagiarized”? Well, that proprietary bullshit-sniffer is called “Google.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Right on about the “Mods” thing. What was that shop across the street from Liquid Sky that sold all that poly shit?

  4. Gavin says:

    So Quadrophenia was a movie about hipsters? Not sure where Northern Soul, parkas, Vespas covered in mirrors, and fighting Rockers on the beaches of Brighton overlaps with ironic facial hair, track bikes, and Salem. Nice try though.

    Ugh, look at these fucking hipsters
    http://youtu.be/1PNChvwTkA0

    PS the term Hipsters goes back way before the Mods. Gawd you’re a nerd.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipster_(1940s_subculture)

  5. sonny bone-o says:

    blah ha hooo!!!

    Lookit gavin spazz it… he’s like i DID INVENT THE HIPSTERS U LITTLE PRICK!
    watch him care

  6. Cheese says:

    Not a good way to start a book promotion tour. Ben Leo is not a team player.

    “Aside: Never forget that the biggest lie … comes from any artist that tells you he could choose to be a mainstream success, if only he had less integrity.”

    Writers always say this. Some say it every day… for years.

  7. wow says:

    genius.

  8. This nonsense needs to stop says:

    Great shit but I gotta’ agree with Gavin. The Mods in Quadrophenia are way too actively aggressive and give too much of a shit to be hipsters. There was nothing passive aggressive or any open confrontation aversiveness about those dandies protecting their turf.

  9. ONLYMERK! says:

    “Aside: Never forget that the biggest lie…comes from any artist that tells you he could choose to be a mainstream success, if only he had less integrity.”

    actually, I’d wager that no one has ever sincerely said this outside bad television.

  10. Penn Station and Bank Teller says:

    ^^^^ this person doesn’t know any artists. Every artist and writer that I know walks around believe this and spewing it to all that will listen.

  11. luke says:

    Ben Leo is right. This is what hipsters were called in the late nineties early 2000s. That version of mod obviously wasn’t the same exact thing as where it came from in the sixties, but they were into the same shit, norther soul, motown, vespas, bowl cuts, tight pants and boots. Do we really not remember that? Was a total thing.

  12. luke says:

    No one with any shred of self awareness would ever say something so stupid about being able to be mainstream successful but choosing not to. Fortunately, most artists, writers, and musicians don’t have any.

  13. Penn Station and Bank Teller says:

    And “This Nonsense” : if not giving a shit and being passive is the hallmark of Hipsterdom, then I guess Gavin’s not a hipster? Because he doesn’t look like he’s being very passive up there in the battle for who invented Hipsterdom. Not giving a shit? Mmmm? Passive? Mmm? yyyyYes good luck with that argument

  14. Cheese says:

    @ Luke

    Goad says it all the time.

  15. luke says:

    Come on, really?

  16. Cheese says:

    I know! He’s all “I turned down $29,326.43 once,” and I was all, like, “oh my god!”

  17. blah says:

    I completely agree with this assessment. Not only it the plagiarism in the first pages of his book, it’s from the first page of other books! Creating a work of art by slicing up other great works is still a difficult feat. He has catapulted himself into international notoriety, not unjustified. Frey did it because he needed to do it to turn an ordinary work into a compelling work, this guy is a performance artist.

  18. CK says:

    So you think hipsterism was invented around the time of My Bloody Valentine? And that MBV were starving? I don’t get it. Are you being ironic in some weird way?

  19. doye says:

    people need to stop using the word hipster

  20. Izzy Anything says:

    cool story. could of used a few more my bloody valentine references

  21. facepalm says:

    Seriously, who gives a shit about the hipster thing? who the fuck are you idiots?

  22. This nonsense needs to stop says:

    Penn Station, stop being such a mark, just because Gavin makes a good living winding all of us up about hipsters doesn’t make him one, he seems to be a very good punk turned master carney.

  23. popfop says:

    The original hipsters were proto mods. Read Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes. It’s about an upwardly mobile working class kid who works as a freelance fashion photographer. These hipsters rode scooters, listened to jazz, were cool with blacks and homos and were interested in success but through creative channels.

  24. heroin town says:

    So, ben leo, you’re convinced that he’s crazy (like a fox?) because he blatantly lifted PARAGRAPHS from a number of marginally successful books and MAYBE positioned himself to have a successful book?
    Be honest, gavin wanted you to have SOMETHING by the great blognig for today (so that it stays front page over the wasteland of the weekend) and you got performance anxiety. Whatever the equivalent of Viagra for writers is, you need to hit that shit up ASAP. I only say this because I’ve been fucked by your literary dick many times and usually come away satisfied.

  25. wow says:

    so heroin town, your point is that you think the author thought he’d get away with copying the first 15 pages of popular books?

  26. Sirkowski says:

    Occam’s razor: he’s just a douche.

  27. Goat My Sampson says:

    @popfop in Britain yeah.

    but like Gavin pointed out, before the time you’re talking about (late 50s in London) hipsters started in the 40s in the states in the jazz scene.

    and on the subject… i say this guys a genius. most likely figured out this way to get his name in the papers and now his shit is selling. kudos to him.

  28. Steve says:

    If Rowan did it on purpose, he’d better have big bucks to burn. Because not only is he going to have to return the advance from his publisher, you can bet he’s going to be sued by them, as well. It costs a lot of money to print thousands of books and ship them across the country only to have them sent straight to a landfill (while you offer full refunds to consumers). Which should help answer the “Was the publisher in on it?” question. The answer being “No way.” Like they’d be O.K. with massive, actionable copyright infringement even if it did provide some good publicity. Don’t forget: Publishing companies are run by bean counters and lawyers. Daring provocateurs they are not.

    In every book contract there’s a section asking for confirmation that the (supposed) author created and owns the copyright for everything in the manuscript. Rowan signed the contract so he lied so that’s fraud, slam dunk. He’s on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars, at the very least. Little, Brown owns his ass.

    So sorry — I must disagree. He’s not a genius. The putz f-ed up.

  29. Steve says:

    Oh. By “did it on purpose,” I meant “intended to get caught all along.” Obviously, the plagiarism was on purpose. Batshit crazy on purpose. But I still don’t think he meant to be caught. At least not yet. Maybe he was going to spring it on everyone in a few weeks, but the James Bond fans beat him to it. Who knows? Whatever he says when he finally slinks out of hiding is guaranteed to be 1/100th of the truth.

  30. 2 Points says:

    1. Don’t trust people named Quentin
    2. Are you trying to be his agent and representative?

  31. man says:

    I don’t know why, but lots of people read novels of suburb connecticut malaise. How to tell those readers they should kill themselves, in a way that they will listen?

  32. Goat My Sampson says:

    would never work because they’re not man enough, man.

  33. popfop says:

    JT Leroy he ain’t.

  34. Cable Guy says:

    Great post.

    @Steve – very solid thinking. you must not be an SC regular.

  35. Miles says:

    @Izzy Anything I especially like the one where they were starving.

  36. Buttocks Lightning says:

    Here is a hugely-disruptive new product, made in Brooklyn by an insane visionary:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOiAX7MPJKU

    Imagine it that could do: eliminate cigarettes. Check out this amazing article on them:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/science/e-cigarettes-help-smokers-quit-but-they-have-some-unlikely-critics.html?_r=1

    This is a lot like the energy revolution — with the rise of shale plays and fracking — whereas green energy is an economic failure. The innovation came from exactly the place that the intelligentsia didn’t want, let alone predict.

    The world will always be driven forward by tinkerers and iconoclasts.

  37. Powers Booth says:

    The term hipster dates as far back as the 1940s. You’re a fucking moron. And there’s nothing hip about this four-eyed meatloaf.

  38. Derek says:

    Cool conversation.

  39. Frankie P says:

    I’m not sure if you’re joking or not–I’ve never seen your blog before–but you surely must know that authors don’t make millions, for the most part, and they never get any tail (there is at least one famous author on OK Cupid–my friend went out with him). Assassin of Secrets was released as a paperback original, which indicates to me that the publisher (Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown, not LB itself) didn’t think it had the power to sell at $26.99 or whatever they charge for hardcover books these days. No, not all of Mulholland Books are paperback. And yes, it went up to #127 on Amazon (not that awesome, but maybe they ran out of books), but in other locales the book was pulled from the shelves and returned to the publisher, where they will be pulped (altho hopefully not at the editorial office). Mulholland made nothing on this. They lost money. If they were in on it, then why? No one wants to lose money.

  40. Steve says:

    Good point, Frankie P. Not only was this a paperback, several reports have mentioned that it only had a print run of 6,500. That’s pretty small. I’m guessing Rowan’s two-book contract would’ve netted him something in the neighborhood of $10,000. So no — the dude wasn’t putting one over on the publishing world. Most of the publishing world had no idea he existed. Now that editors in New York *do* know who he is, they’ll also know to avoid him like the plague. He’s no James Frey. He’s toast.

    Two more things that argue against the “brilliant prank” idea:

    (1) The guy’s been stealing from other writers for years.
    http://www.observer.com/2011/11/q-r-markham-basically-plagiarized-everything-he-ever-wrote-including-a-huffpo-column/

    (2) He sent an apology to one of the blurbers he duped in which he says he’s “not sitting somewhere enjoying this or laughing about it.”
    http://jeremyduns.blogspot.com/2011/11/highway-robbery-mask-of-knowing-in.html
    (Scroll down to the comments.)

    Really, crazy as it sounds it looks like Rowan thought he could get away with it, Benjamin. Your original take on him — douchebag — seems to have been the correct one.

  41. (not published or required) says:

    funny.

    i’ve never heard any artist say the thing about mainstream success. i think most people just accept that they do the type of art that they do, if your stuffs successful then its successful etc etc whatever

    interesting post.

    writers are such pussys these days. what happened to being a rebel?
    just writing whatever you want and telling everyone to go fuck themselves
    esp fucking oprah winfrey

    stealing your whole book is fucking awesome, but the guy just sounds like a dick

    always amazes me hearing another of the millions of ways people justify selling the fuck out (candy coating shit) listen to this guy:

    “With the economy so bad, there’s no room for a writer to worry about selling out, he said. “People who were writing thoughtful short stories about suburban malaise are now writing vampire stories.”

    hahaha, yeah poverty never produced any good writing

  42. (not published or required) says:

    ‘The Hipster Problem’ is about guy-hipsters.

    girl hipsters are fine. some of them are sooooo fine

    so thats not a problem

    but male hipsters… men dressing themselves up and having a head full of fashionable fucking bullshit… that whole ‘looking like you’re an artist’ thing..

    public executions please.

    the godfather said it best:

    “women and children can be careless but not the men”

  43. Writer with a soul says:

    You can doubt all you want, but exactly that is true for me: I could write mainstream books in a heartbeat. Believe it or not, some authors truly do reserve their talents for things they believe in. If having to make little or even no money is the cost of integrity; so be it.

  44. luke says:

    ^Look at this hero.

  45. ^ says:

    Yeah, real hero material right there. I bet he’s been screwed over several times in the worst possible ways. Chalk it up to experience, eh?

  46. (not published or required) says:

    @writerwithasoul

    I know there are things going on tonight, but I don’t bother
    Only ten minutes across town that’s right, but I don’t bother

    I could put on a tight black shirt, but I don’t bother
    I could hit the gym so it looks real nice, but I don’t bother
    I could tell a joke and make the whole room laugh, but I don’t bother
    I could show up with the coldest six pack, but I don’t bother

    No to everything

    I could match you drink for drink, but I don’t bother
    I know I could make her boyfriend mad, but I don’t bother
    I could captivate with a story of mine, but I don’t bother
    I could go on and start a conga line, but I don’t bother

    No to everything

  47. (not published or required) says:

    When you’re standin’ on the edge of nowhere
    There’s only one way up
    So your heart’s gotta go there
    Through the darkest night
    See the light shine bright
    When heroes fall in love or war

    No forever

  48. blaahus poopus says:

    I sold my soul to the devil at the arctic circle. Things been looking up ever since.

  49. sage francis says:

    Gavin, i agree about quadrophenia. I wear track suits and i tell people all the time that hipster shit is over.

  50. blah says:

    Where does technical legal writing fall into the selling out spectrum? About as far as you can go wrong, I know. The $150-$1,000 a page it pays really helps though.

    Is it always “selling out” when you don’t do as a job something that feels like leisure, play or making art? I think when you do both at the same time (work/play), you end up in a position where you don’t fully do either activity well.

    The real problem with a sell out job that pays so much is that you don’t know when to stop. Ideally you would separately do a good mixture of both work and play. The work however, still feels like soul-grinding work.

    Oh well, back to work.

  51. hey hey hey says:

    smoke weed errday

  52. luke says:

    @blah art, or quality writing isn’t leisure or play.

  53. luke says:

    I mean, it’s not fun to produce, not that I’d know, but still.

  54. mograbs says:

    Ben you are the type of loser markham makes fun of coming in the bookstore all the time.

  55. Penn Station and Bank Teller says:

    ^^^^ that’s some comic book guy irony right there. God all these LOSERS that keep stopping by my parent’s basement!

  56. Goat My Sampson says:

    RIP Nate Dogg

  57. (not published or required) says:

    i think you should just get a real job and do your stuff any way you can with what time you have left.

    and if you cant do it then tough titties

    also get a job where you dont use your brain, like in a post office or a factotum

    definately nothing that requires emails

  58. (not published or required) says:

    also you’re gonna want to rack up an endless series of failed relationships, no kids, friends who hate you, and maybe a terminal illness or two

    you’re in!

  59. Steve says:

    FYI, Rowan has come clean: It wasn’t a stunt. He simply got in over his head and fell back on an old habit — stealing other writers’ work. Or so he’s saying now. I’m inclined to believe it, for the most part, since it makes him look quite pathetic.

    http://jeremyduns.blogspot.com/2011/11/highway-robbery-mask-of-knowing-in.html?showComment=1321259953379#c563057237791226662
    (Scroll down to the comments.)

  60. blah says:

    @luke

    Agreed… I actually thought about this: “leisure, play or making art” is in the disjunctive. Making art for the artist must be torturous.

    It seems that the folks who measure “selling out” are measuring by how commercially successful and soulless the writing is. My question involved whether a person can be accepted by these folks as one who works at writing and also has other pursuits.

    I enjoy your writing. Have you “sold out” by any definition?

  61. Katrick Pay says:

    “why don’t you do it? Afraid carrying around all that money and pussy will strain your back?”

    Classic! And yeah, this guy is obviously doing an art prank or whatever it’s called.

  62. Katrick Pay says:

    If everyone here kicked in, let’s say, $167 apiece we could pay Writer With A Soul $10,000 to publish his or her (alright, I’m assuming he’s a he) stark, uncompromising literary vision. I’ma go out on a limb and guess it’s in blank verse.

    send your $167 to WWAS@paypal.com.

  63. (not published or required) says:

    ^^ that is a fucking awesome idea / way to call someones bluff

    plus if it sells we get percentages back on our investment right? (way of the future btw)

  64. Katrick Pay says:

    Abort! “WWAS” could also stand for “What a Waste A’ Scrilla”.

  65. Katrick Pay says:

    Honestly I’d actually be willing to put $16.70 into WWAS’s literary career, just for the larfs. We need about 599 other people to go for it. And yeah profit sharing would be a necessity. There’d have to be some sort of laundry/gardening clause in there too in case he doesn’t become a publishing sensation. Like, he comes and does three hours of back-breaking physical labour at every investor’s house. I don’t expect much from a writer but he could probably put put the washing.

  66. Walmart Greeter says:

    Someone tipped me $16.70 today and it made my life. It’s nice to know my greeting efforts don’t go unnoticed. I also support the creative arts, so even I would tip WWAS. Maybe not $16.70, but less than that. (I work at walmart, what do you expect?) On that note, I see a kid puking over in aisle five; better go get the ajax

  67. zakur says:

    You’re wrong – he’s a klepto moron psycho, or as he terms it – “addict”:

    http://www.thefix.com/content/confessions-plagiarist-Quentin-rowan9278?page=all


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