Naomi Ragen Responds To Plagiarism Charges

Novelist Naomi Ragen emails me October 8, 2007 about this:

Dear Mr. Ford,

Do you think it is ethical to print charges against an author destroying her reputation when the subject is under judicial review and will be decided in the courts? Is it right to allow people to publicize these charges with no rebuttal from the author? Are you aware of the fact that the Cross-Currents website is run by Jonathan Rosenblum, who has a long-held and well-documented personal bias against me and has attacked me in the past in print for which he was sent a formal letter of complaint by the editor of the Jerusalem Post?

Are you aware that Michal Tal’s self-published book came out after my book was already in the hands of a publishing house, and thus I could not possibly have used any of her material, which had no relevance to my book at all anyway? Are you aware that my book is the story of the historical character Gracia Mendes, and hers is about a horny Milanese tax collector and his equally horny son and a book that I felt embarrassed to read when I was forced to do so by this court case? Are you aware of the fact that Ms. Shapiro aired all her unfounded charges thirteen years ago, and they were thoroughly examined and rejected by the legal staff of Random House? Would you like to see the letter? Are you aware that her book, her diary of her anger management classes, contains numerous instances of her physically abusing her children? Are you aware that both authors are represented by an attorney who sent me a letter saying that if I didn’t pay him "a considerable sum" under the table, that he would "ruin" my reputation, by spreading these charges on the internet? Are you aware that by posting these things you are helping him to do this you and are now complicit in this attempt at extortion?

From the Jerusalem Post, Feb. 23, 2007:

…[Tal’s lawyer, Gilad] Corinaldi prepared a brochure in which he lined up, side by side, elements of the two novels that, he said, were strikingly similar.

For example, Tal’s book begins with a couple living in modern times who reveal a story set during the Inquisition through a medieval family manuscript written in Spanish and using the device of dreams.

These elements are also used to develop the story in Ragen’s novel.

Both books begin with a family tree.

Some of the names that appear in the two novels are similar or identical: in Tal’s book, "Deigo Allegra," "Elvira," "Rinaldo," "Braudelein," "Aunt Maria" and "Angelica"; in Ragen’s book, "Diogo Mendes," "Elvira," "Renaldo," "Brianda," "Aunt Malca," "Frangelica."

Corinaldi wrote that many of the themes and descriptions that appear in Tal’s book also appear in Ragen’s. According to one example, Lorenzo Di Paradisi, one of the main character’s in Tal’s book, is a state taxation officer. He is described as "neither too soft-hearted nor too wavering when he collected taxes. He could obtain the cooperation [of late-payers] with his flashing smile, if necessary, with a stern look and harsh word." In Ragen’s book, Donna Gracia Mendes sometimes has to fight lawsuits and collect taxes. "For these tasks," wrote Ragen in Donna Gracia Mendes’s character, "I found that I needed a cool head and a clever tongue that knew how to caress as well as lash."

…Corinaldi told the Post he only went ahead with the legal action after consulting with two literature experts who both concluded that Ragen had copied from Tal’s book. One of them told the Post in a telephone conversation that she had gone over the material and concluded that there was "an accumulation of elements" in Ragen’s book that came from Tal’s. Neither she nor the other expert referred to by Corinaldi were willing to identify themselves.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Michal Tal, Naomi Ragen. Bookmark the permalink.