Author Judith Kelly e-mailed on Saturday to tell me she's planning legal action against the newspapers that have accused her of plagiarism. The subject line of her message reads "Private & Confidential" and the text begins with an underlined command in bold print: "Not for Publication."
Why am I telling you this? Because I believe I was meant to.
I'm guessing that others who have blogged about this story (as I did here and here) received a similar message over the weekend. A couple of quick Google and Technorati searches told me that nobody has talked about this story in a few months, strengthening my suspicion that Ms. Kelly is eager to stir up some more conversation about it. There's no such thing as bad publicity, the wise ones tell us, and Ms. Kelly has been very active in the blogosphere, e-mailing bloggers and even posting public comments to their articles about her. Anyone who who has mentioned Rock Me Gently on a blog has seen the author and her posse (who at least one blogger has "caught" using identical IP addresses*) hurry over (via the search engines) to defend the integrity of the book.
In the past I had occasion to note Ms. Kelly's IP address, so I recognized it when I saw in my referrer logs that someone had ridden in on a search engine yesterday and visited both of my blog entries that mentioned her. Call me a skeptic, but I don't believe she was eager to assure herself that I hadn't blabbed about the contents of Saturday's e-mail. I think she was hoping to find that I had.
Of course I won't quote anyone's e-mail--ever--without permission. In addition to bad manners, it would in many cases constitute a copyright violation. But no e-mail correspondence is confidential unless both parties agree that it will be, and I never asked to receive this message or promised to keep its contents secret. I'm no journalist, so I'm afraid there's no "off the record" option when somebody decides to spill her guts on a subject I've been blogging about. And I'll bet even Ms. Kelly realizes that if something is truly "not for publication," telling it to a blogger might not be her best move.
It's nothing to me if this lady is threatening to sic her attorneys on a bunch of newspapers (although I did spare a moment to wonder how strong a case she'll be able to make, after initially responding to the accusations of plagiarism with all kinds of apologies). I wouldn't have considered this item blogworthy had it not been for Ms. Kelly's odd insistence on the "confidentiality" of the contents of her message coupled with the fact that she rushed over here the next day to see if I'd written anything more about her. She appears to have one or two friends keeping tabs on my blog, as well: Since yesterday morning those two old posts have been searched for and looked at several times by people on computers in London and Glasgow. But while this situation is just bizarre enough to wring a post out of me, I'm not going to reopen the discussion on Rock Me Gently. I've blogged about it twice already and the subject no longer interests me.
*Fun fact: On this blog and most others, anonymous comments are allowed. You can pretend to be anyone you like, and the world will be no wiser, with this exception: A blogger who looks at her referrer logs will generally be able to tell if you're posting comments under more than one name because she has access to information that uniquely identifies your computer. So it's not smart to comment as "Fred" and then come back as "Mary" to write, "You know, Fred is absolutely correct." A savvy blogger will nail you for playing games like that.