Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Lauren Beukes Refutes Claims She “Purloined” Ideas from Other Writers in The Shining Girls

The Shining GirlsBroken MonstersLauren Beukes has labelled as “very tiresome” an academic paper accusing her of having “purloined” ideas from other writers in The Shining Girls.

The paper, entitled “Speculation, urban form, and ‘what if’ fiction in South Africa and Beyond”, is written by Loren Kruger and intended for a Wiser seminar to be held this afternoon. Beukes quotes a section from it on her public Facebook page, in which Kruger states that the “suppression” of what she believes are “significant” sources for The Shining Girls is either “downright deceptive” or an indication of a “hasty flight from the copyright police”.

Kruger’s paper is available for download from the Wiser website, with the caveat that it is a draft, and not for citation. Despite its interesting observations on dystopian and speculative fiction in a South African context, the paper does make some questionable claims around The Shining Girls’ influences and setting.

Kruger suggests that Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander is an “evident if unacknowledged model” for The Shining Girls’ protagonist Kirby Mizrachi, but only offers as support for this argument the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s original title, Män som hatar kvinnor or “Men who hate women”, and the similarity between Kirby and Salander’s motivation. Kruger also claims that the “unacknowledged but unmistakable source” for Beukes’ serial killer Harper Curtis is real life 1890s-era serial killer HH Holmes, who lured a number of women into a hotel he opened specifically to commit murder. Holmes’ hotel was situated near to the Chicago World’s Fair, from where he chose a number of his victims. Holmes’ crimes are documented in Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, which was published in 2003. Kruger calls the omission of Holmes and Larson from Beukes acknowledgements “striking”.

However, while Beukes concedes that she did “read a Wikipedia page on HH Holmes” and that Harper’s scene at the World’s Fair is “in homage to Holmes”, she insists: “But he’s not Harper”.

“Harper’s modus operandi and personality is part BTK [the alias of convicted serial killer Dennis Rader], part Richard Peck and a mash-up of a bunch of other awful loathsome serial killers whose names I don’t remember,” Beukes says on Facebook, “from the true crime podcasts I listened to and from the brilliant book, Perfect Victims by Bill James and, to a lesser extent, Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K Ressler & Tom Schachtman. (Both credited in my acknowledgements.)”

Kruger further asserts that the Englewood area where Harper’s house is situated is in a “black belt” that “did not exist there in the 1930s”. However, Beukes responds: “As for geographies: if you read the book carefully, you’ll see that Englewood is not IN the black belt, but that Harper meanders through the city to get there in an addled and hallucinatory state.”

Kruger believes the errors she perceives in The Shining Girls can be attributed to its rushed publication, and suggests that Beukes’ “transnational publisher” prioritised speed of production and cross-genre market appeal.

In response, Beukes says: “I’d also be happy to put the academic in question in touch with my publisher and my agent to explain how publishing actually works,” before adding that although Kruger has chosen “interesting topics to explore”, she made “proclamations” and her “phrasing is insulting, if not libellous”.

Beukes also stresses the many influences that could have inspired the character of Kirby, including women from her first book, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past, “smart interesting women I know like Zukiswa Wanner or Sarah Lotz or Janine Stephen” and the “many kickass complicated heroines well before Dragon Tattoo’s Salander”, including Jane Eyre to Ripley from Alien, among others.

Read Beukes’ Facebook post:

 

 
 
Beukes also responded on Twitter:


 

Book details

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    July 22nd, 2014 @15:41 #
     
    Top

    I came across Kruger's critical acumen in her book 'Imagining the Edgy City'; where inter alia she made reference to an article of mine on the novels of Soweto. In her gloss, she states that my piece is saying exactly the opposite of what it actually - and clearly - is saying; she gets the evaluations I make of the novels wrong; and she then explains it away as a result of my political affiliation (which she guesses at - this too is wrong). Nuff said.

    Bottom
  • bibi
    bibi
    July 22nd, 2014 @19:29 #
     
    Top

    Hey Kelwyn. What is the name of the article? I am researching novels set in Johannesburg and I haven't come across it.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    July 22nd, 2014 @20:32 #
     
    Top

    If I remember rightly, there's two versions - one in a book edited by Stephen Clingman, called 'Regions and Repertoires' (Ravan); the other in a Research in African Literatures, definitely dated 1988 though I can't remember the edition. Hope that works, Bibi.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    July 22nd, 2014 @20:42 #
     
    Top

    And if you want to check up what I really think of the pros and cons of Serote's 'To Every Birth Its Blood', there's an article just on this novel in English in Africa 18, 1 1991. 'Highest praise', indeed.

    Bottom
  • bibi
    bibi
    July 23rd, 2014 @15:28 #
     
    Top

    Thank you!

    Bottom

Please register or log in to comment


» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat