Acclaimed author and science writer Jonah Lehrer resigned from his position as a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine on Monday following a Tablet Magazine story that reported he "fabricated" several quotes and details about Bob Dylan's life in his recent best-selling nonfiction work "Imagine: How Creativity Works."
Jonah Lehrer resigned from the New Yorker Monday after Michael M. Moynihan uncovered Bob Dylan quotes Lehrer had fabricated in his book "Imagine: How The Creative Process Works."
The news comes little more than a month after the newly-minted New Yorker writer admitted to plagiarizing his own work on several occasions after he was caught by another media watcher, Jim Romenesko.
This is not the first time that "Imagine" itself has come under intense scrutiny. In his review of the book for the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner referred to Lehrer's entire analysis of Dylan's famous song "Like A Rolling Stone" as "inaccurate, misleading, or simplistic." (After news broke of Lehrer's resignation, the New Republic reminded its Twitter followers that Lehrer's "deceptions" were "first probed" in their article.)
"Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book 'Imagine,' " Lehrer said in a statement Monday, the New York Times reports. "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."
"The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at the New Yorker."
Michael Moynihan's original story describes self-identified "Dylan obsessive" becoming progressively perturbed by some of Lehrer's statements and attributions about the legendary musician in a chapter devoted to him in "Imagine":
Lehrer told me these quotes were a result of his research at "bobdylan.com headquarters," and that he had access to the uncut version of No Direction Home provided by Dylan's manager Jeff Rosen.
[...] when I contacted Dylan's management, they told me that they were unfamiliar with Lehrer, had never read his book, there was no bobdylan.com headquarters, and, to the best of their recollection, no one there had screened outtakes from No Direction Home for Lehrer. Confronted with this, Lehrer admitted that he had invented it.
David Remnick, the New Yorker's editor-in-chief, issued the following statement on Jonah Lehrer's resignation according to Talking Points Memo: "This is a terrifically sad situation, but, in the end, what is most important is the integrity of what we publish and what we stand for." A spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of Lehrer's "Imagine," said in a statement to the New York Times that the company is "exploring all options" for the future of the book. For the time being, she stated, the e-book will be taken off the market, and the publisher has stopped future shipments of physical copies of the book.
Amidst a string of Bob Dylan jokes, journalists have been reacting to the news with shock and regret. "Seldom see career flame-outs as total as this," Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo tweeted, linking to the original New York Times post.
Follow us on LinkedIn