New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer resigns over fabricated Bob Dylan quotes

By , Jul 31 2012

New Yorker's Jonah Lehrer resigns over fabricated Bob Dylan quotes

Jonah Lehrer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has resigned after making up quotes about Bob Dylan in his best-selling book, Imagine: How Creativity Works.

The third book written by Lehrer, Imagine is an examination of the science of creativity and the human imagination, with specific focus on Bob Dylan’s writing habits. An article for Tablet magazine by former Reason editor Michael Moynihan, however, argues that “there is no proof” that Dylan ever said some of the quotes Lehrer used in Imagine, with specific reference to one, which ironically reads “It’s a hard thing to describe, it’s just this sense that you got something to say.”

“When contacted”, Moynihan’s piece explains, “Lehrer provided an explanation for some of my archival failures: He claimed to have been given access, by Dylan’s manager Jeff Rosen, to an extended—and unreleased—interview shot for Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home. Two of the quotes confounding me, he explained, could be found in a more complete version of that interview that is not publicly available. As corroboration, he offered details of the context in which the comments were delivered and brought up other topics he claimed Dylan discussed in this unreleased footage”.

“Over the next three weeks, Lehrer stonewalled, misled, and, eventually, outright lied to me. Yesterday, Lehrer finally confessed that he has never met or corresponded with Jeff Rosen, Dylan’s manager; he has never seen an unexpurgated version of Dylan’s interview for No Direction Home, something he offered up to stymie my search; that a missing quote he claimed could be found in an episode of Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” cannot, in fact, be found there; and that a 1995 radio interview, supposedly available in a printed collection of Dylan interviews called The Fiddler Now Upspoke, also didn’t exist. When, three weeks after our first contact, I asked Lehrer to explain his deceptions, he responded, for the first time in our communication, forthrightly: “I couldn’t find the original sources,” he said. “I panicked. And I’m deeply sorry for lying.”

Lehrer has now resigned from his position at the New Yorker, a statement from his publisher reading thus:

“Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book Imagine. The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes.

“But I told Mr Moynihan that they were from archival interview footage provided to me by Dylan’s representatives. This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic. When Mr Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said”.

Bob Dylan’s new album, Tempest, will be released on September 11.

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