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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Uneasy Partnership of Pauline Kael and Penelope Gilliatt

Gilliatt's precarious state may explain why Shawn so badly handled the scandal that ended her film critic tenure in 1979. Assigned to profile Graham Greene, Gilliatt, briefly full-time since Kael left for an ill-fated stint as a Hollywood producer, turned in a draft that a young fact-checker named Peter Canby flagged for lifting material from previously published work. (Canby now oversees the storied fact-checking department.) Brushing the warnings aside, Shawn published Gilliatt's piece, which is when Michael Mewshaw realized she'd pilfered more than 800 words of his own Greene profile from The Nation. As he recounted in his 2003 memoir Do I Owe You Something? Mewshaw complained to Shawn, who blamed the plagiarism on Gilliatt's alcohol problem and said public excoriation would drive her to the brink. Mewshaw took Shawn's offer of $2,000 and a private letter of apology, but the news got out to the New York Times that May, leaving Shawn in an embarrassing position—and vulnerable to Kael's successful demand for full-time status.

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