October 19, 2007, - 12:10 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
**** UPDATE, 10/24/07: HOprah Knew of Jessica Seinfeld’s Plagiarism; Compare & Contrast: Jerry Seinfeld Attacked Plagiarism of Girlfriend on Sitcom, But Defends Wife For It ****
When Jerry Seinfeld was in town a couple of weeks ago to promote his new “Bee Movie” (will write about the interview later), I asked him about his wife Jessica Seinfeld’s new book, which contains recipes and methods in which to sneak nutritious vegetable and fruit purees into foods kids like. It was before Ms. Seinfeld appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and the book predictably hit–and topped–the New York Times Bestseller list, where it is now #1 in the advice category (it’s also #1 overall on Amazon).
But today’s Wall Street Journal raises questions as to whether the book, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food,” was an act of plagiarism:
With the unexpected success has come some unexpected controversy. The book’s popularity has prompted the author of another children’s nutrition book to note similarities between the two titles, even as sales of her book are being lifted by Ms. Seinfeld’s fame. . . .
One writer specifically cited, “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals,” by Missy Chase Lapine, published in April by the Running Press, an imprint owned by Perseus Books, LLC, an independent publisher.
The books by Ms. Seinfeld and Ms. Lapine feature similar recipes for macaroni and cheese that have vegetable purees mixed in. Both books also have recipes for chocolate pudding with pureed avocado. However, while the concepts are similar, the recipes differ in their specifics.
“Our author is concerned that there are many significant similarities between ‘The Sneaky Chef,’ and the Seinfeld book,” says David Steinberger, chief executive of Perseus, in an email. “We agree that the books appear to be very similar in many ways. But we don’t know enough about how this happened to accuse anyone of wrongdoing. We have a bestseller in ‘The Sneaky Chef.’ We feel it is a terrific book and right now we are focused on selling more copies of it.”
In a telephone interview, Ms. Seinfeld, a mother of three, said that “I’ve never held that book in my hands, and I swear that on my life. When I was told there was a book of a similar type, I told myself I would never go near it. And there is no way I borrowed anything. Why would I spend my time doing that? I never claimed to have invented pureeing: Many grandmothers would say it is something they’ve always done. I created something that I thought would help other families.”
[Steve] Ross [President] of HarperCollins [Seinfeld's publisher] says there are similarities among all books that treat sneaking nutritious elements into children’s food, of which he said there is “practically a library.” . . .
In her introduction, Ms. Seinfeld explains how she came up with her book: “Then, one evening while I was cooking dinner, pureeing butternut squash for the baby and making mac and cheese for the rest of us, I had the crazy idea of stirring a little of the puree into the macaroni. And so I did.” . . .
Ms. Lapine originally submitted her proposal to Collins, says Mr. Ross. But it was rejected on May 23, 2006, because it was deemed too similar to another book, “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed our Children,” that Collins eventually published, Mr. Ross says.
Less than two weeks later, on June 9, an agent submitted a proposal for Ms. Seinfeld’s book. A different Collins editor decided to set up a meeting because of the author’s celebrity status, and the editor thought it was an interesting subject, says Mr. Ross. . . . As a result, Collins bought the book. . . .
Ms. Lapine’s book will be No. 9 on the New York Times paperback advice list for Oct. 28.
The article is not about the plagiarism aspect, but more about how the book is selling millions and they can’t keep it on the shelves since the Oprah appearance. That’s a big reason, I’d sure, in why this publisher–owned by Rupert Murdoch–is denying that there’s a rip-off in play here.
Hmmm . . . Sounds very suspicious to me. Remember, this is the same woman–Jessica Seinfeld–who dumped her new husband Eric Nederlander just after their three-week honeymoon because she met a man with much deeper pockets, Jerry Seinfeld.
So, is Jessica Seinfeld a plagiarist? Will Oprah get to the bottom of it on her show, the same way she play-acted feigned anger and indignance at author James Frey, another fraud whom she turned into a best-selling author?
Don’t bet on it. She features Jerry Seinfeld in the November issue of her “O” Magazine. And she has a prominent role as a judge in his animated “Bee Movie.” And HOprah doesn’t go to the bathroom where she eats.
**** UPDATE: Looks like there are even more “similarities” between Mrs. Seinfeld’s book and the one that preceded it, according to the New York Daily News’ Rush & Molloy. Double Hmmm . . .
Lapine baked her spinach brownies with Al Roker on the “Today” show; Seinfeld shared her spinach brownies with Oprah on that show last week.
**** UPDATE #2: The evidence is mounting that Jessica Seinfeld’s book is a rip-off. Per reader Barry Popik, the New York Times has even more, and Jerry Seinfeld is now defending his wife (triple hmmm . . .):
Mr. Seinfeld, who joined his wife on the phone, said, “Let’s be realistic – my wife isn’t in this for the money or the publicity.” He added, “I really don’t think we have another Watergate here.”
The basic concepts for several of Ms. Lapine’s recipes – spinach in brownies, avocado in chocolate pudding and sweet potato in grilled cheese sandwiches – also appear in recipes offered by Ms. Seinfeld.
Ms. Lapine, a mother of two daughters who lives in Irvington, N.Y., said that when she compared her book with Ms. Seinfeld’s, she was “uncomfortable” seeing that “those unusual combinations that I thought would brand me as a lunatic showed up here, too.” . . .
Ms. Lapine’s publisher contacted HarperCollins this summer after an early brochure for “Deceptively Delicious” showed an illustration of a woman holding carrots behind her back, similar to a drawing on the cover of “The Sneaky Chef.” Collins changed its plans for the cover, although, Mr. Ross said, that could have been because “it just looked too awkward to have her holding a plate of brownies with one hand and carrots” in the other.
Tags: Al Roker, Amazon, author, Barry Popik, Bee Movie, Chief Executive, Collins, David Steinberger, Debbie Schlussel, editor, Eric Nederlander, food, Irvington, James Frey, Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld Attacked, Jessica Seinfeld, judge, Missy Chase Lapine, New York, New York Daily News, Perseus Books LLC, President, Ross, Running Press, Rupert Murdoch, Sneaky Chef, squash, the New York Daily News, The New York Times, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Sneaky Chef, Wall Street Journal, writer