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Inspiration or plagiarism? Writing hackles raised in Boston dispute

bostonglobe.com – Friday July 27, 2018

Good artists copy, but great artists steal, or so the old saying goes. But the truth may be far more complicated, as shown by a recent case of alleged plagiarism that rattled through Boston’s literary scene.

Accusations arose in June that a small section of a piece of short fiction chosen by the Boston Book Festival for its annual One City One Story program contained material lifted from another, real-life source. The group is planning to distribute now slightly modified copies of the work for free starting in late August.

The story, “The Kindest,” by Boston writer Sonya Larson, involves a kidney donation and was published last year in American Short Fiction to praise and acclaim. The objections, raised by a former friend of Larson who said the writer had lifted material from her Facebook post, eventually triggered legal and ethical inquiriesas well as questions of when and how it is acceptable for the stuff of real life — someone else’s life in particular — to be transformed into art.

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