Dylan Nobel lecture used phrasing similar to SparkNotes

LOS ANGELES — The whiff of plagiarism is blowin’ in the wind for Bob Dylan.

Phrases sprinkled throughout the rock legend’s lecture for his Nobel Prize in literature are very similar to phrases from the summation of “Moby Dick” on SparkNotes, a sort of online “Cliff’s Notes” that’s familiar to modern students looking for shortcuts and teachers trying to catch them.

The saga began when writer Ben Greenman pointed out on his blog on June 6 that Dylan appeared to have invented a quote from “Moby Dick,” which Dylan discussed in the lecture along with Buddy Holly, “The Odyssey” and “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

Then Andrea Pitzer, a writer for Slate, delved into the supposed quote and wrote in a story Tuesday that the line was not in “Moby Dick” but was very much like a line from the SparkNotes summary of the book.

Here’s Dylan: “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness”

And SparkNotes: “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness.”

Pitzer went on to find, and The Associated Press has verified, 20 other sentences with traces and phrases from the “Moby Dick” SparkNotes. She cites no examples in Dylan’s discussion of the other two books, and the AP found none.

The cases Pitzer found are not blatant or explicit — there are no verbatim sentences, only identical phrases and similar phrasing.

Other examples:

— Dylan: “Moby attacks one more time, ramming the Pequod and sinking it. Ahab gets tangled up in the harpoon lines and is thrown out of his boat into a watery grave.”

— SparkNotes: “Moby Dick rams the Pequod and sinks it. Ahab is then caught in a harpoon line and hurled out of his harpoon boat to his death.”

— Dylan: “The ship’s crew is made up of men of different races.”

— SparkNotes: “…a crew made up of men from many different countries and races.”

Dylan and spokesmen for SparkNotes and the Swedish Academy which hands out the Nobel weren’t immediately available for comment.