Jonah Lehrer is back in the saddle again!


All tangled up in bull: Truly, in modern American discourse, it’s bullroar all the way down.

If you didn’t understand that fact, you might be confused by this news report, in which Julie Bosman explains the triumphant return of the “fallen,” “disgraced” Jonah Lehrer.

Since at least the late 1990s, American political discourse has been ruled by inventive paraphrase and outright misquotation. As Bosman explains, Lehrer took this developing practice to an unusual place—in his last book, he invented quotes, then attributed them to Bob Dylan!

In a book which was titled Imagine!

Crackers, please! It’s one thing to dream up quotes and attribute them to major presidential contenders. But if you make up shit about Dylan, other journalists may actually care.

That’s what happened to Lehrer last year, setting up this year’s comeback.

In the passage which follows, Bosman describes the book proposal which has restored the ridiculous Lehrer to his rightful place atop the heap of bullroar. Does it seem that this new work, A Book About Love, may be the silliest book ever attempted on Earth?
BOSMAN (6/7/13): In a 65-page book proposal obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Lehrer described the day last summer—a “muggy Sunday morning in St. Louis”—when his journalistic fraud was discovered.

“I feel the shiver of a voice mail message,” he wrote in the proposal, “A Book About Love.” “I listen to the message. I have been found out. I puke into a recycling bin. And then I start to cry. Why was I crying? I had been caught in a lie, a desperate attempt to conceal my mistakes. And now it was clear that, within 24 hours, my fall would begin. I would lose my job and my reputation. My private shame would become public.”

Mr. Lehrer, then a 31-year-old wunderkind of the journalism and publishing worlds, had fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan and recycled his own work from one publication to another, and he subsequently lost his prestigious position at The New Yorker. His publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, quickly removed print copies of his best-selling book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” from bookshelves and from online retailers.
People, you can make up quotes by Al Gore. But you will not mess with Bob Dylan!

This sounds like the hinkiest book of all time, as you will surely see if you read Bosman's full report. That said, the publishing world seems thoroughly sold. And uh-oh! Just like that, Daniel Engber found a chunk of Lehrer's book proposal which seems to sound just a bit, how shall we say, “familiar.”

Responding to Engber's piece at Slate, commenters swore there was nothing wrong. The example Engber cited does seem a bit shaky to us.

You can’t keep a good man down! In our post-journalistic world, the crackpots bounce back even faster.


  1. Quaker in a BasementJune 13, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    Once the target has been completely shamed, redemption is the only story left.

    1. Completely shamed? Only one year has gone by. Stephen Glass is still struggling for redemption after a decade. Lehrer should suffer. A lot. Really, he should be working at Office Depot for the rest of his life.

    2. Why make Office Depot suffer as well?

  2. Why do people want to read Malcolm-Gladwell-lite? Malcolm Gladwell original isn't even very interesting.