1. Early in Yojimbo, there’s a scene where the wandering ronin Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune), looks in horror as a dog trots by carrying a severed hand in its mouth.  At first, I thought, Oh, cool, I’ve got a scene like that in my book, and then I thought, Oh, shit, I’ve got a scene like that in my book.
  2. It’s been at least 5 years since I last watched Yojimbo, and I had honestly forgotten about that scene.  Maybe it had implanted itself in my brain, like an earwig burrowing to lay eggs, and I sub-consciously replicated it.  Or maybe I had come up with it on my own and emulated that scene by coincidence only.  Having been reminded of it, however, I’m willing enough to chalk it up as an homage to Kurosawa, even if my novel lacks samurai swords flashing about in a flurry.
  3. This is on my mind because of the numerous plagiarism scandals that rock the literary world, most recently involving 17 year-old Helene Hegemann, who claims the “Kathy Acker” defense, attributing her nimble-fingered lifting to post-modernity and intertextuality.  Sorry to break it to you, but this only works if the two texts have a meaningful conversation with one another, which to me, means some acknowledgment of the earlier source.  David Shields might disagree, but I’m not the one announcing the death of the novel.
  4. As Stephen Prince points out in his commentary, Yojimbo derives from (or, if you prefer, draws upon) earlier works, most notably, Dashiell Hammett’s novel Red Harvest and Stuart Heisler’s film The Glass Key, also based on a Hammett novel.  Indeed, the scene where Sanjuro receives a beating and crawls away from captivity mimics a scene from the Heisler film.  One can assume, as Prince does, that Kurosawa copied Heisler on purpose (or, if you prefer, pays tribute to).
  5. Yojimbo itself has also been remade:  once as Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, and against as Walter Hill’s Last Man StandingKurosawa sued Leone, who denied similarities between the two films.  Remember:  it’s an homage only if you admit to it.  Walter Hill is much more forthcoming about his appropriation (or, if you prefer, borrowing).
  6. Therefore, let this serve as a public announcement:  there’s a little bit of my novel which resembles a little bit of Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo, despite the differences in the context, mood and format.  Any further little similarities (to Dashiell Hammett, Stuart Heisler, Sergio Leone, Walter Hill or to other films that feature a dog carrying a severed hand [including but not limited to Eurotrip and Wild at Heart]) are purely coincidental.
  7. Copying or distributing this written admission without attribution or expressed consent will be considered copyright infringement.
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