Writer Jonah Lehrer first learned he had been rumbled, as a plagiarist and fabricator, from a voicemail.
It was a “muggy Sunday morning in St Louis,” the precocious 31-year-old recalled later. “I have been found out. I puke into a recycling bin. And then I start to cry... I would lose my job and my reputation. My private shame would become public.”
Lehrer resigned from the staff of The New Yorker last year. Copies of his bestselling book Imagine: How Creativity Works, were pulped by his publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Now he is making a comeback: the opening recollection comes from the 65-page proposal for his new book, tentatively entitled The Book of Love. The 80,000-word tome will take Lehrer’s disgrace, and the support of his wife, as an example of the power of love. “Jonah Lehrer is an unusually talented writer,” Jonathan Karp of publisher Simon & Schuster told the New York Times. “We believe in second chances.”
In July 2012, shortly after the publication of Imagine, journalist Michael Moynihan accused Lehrer of fabricating quotes from Bob Dylan. Lehrer at first denied the charges, before finally issuing a blanket apology for several instances of invention and plagiarism.