Tuesday, April 25, 2006

How to Mess up a $ 500000 Deal: Kaavya Viswananthan's Dream Debut Goes Sour

When you are given so much already, like a huge deal to write a book with a famous publisher, why to mess it up by plagiarism? It seems it was done unconsciously.

Washington Post story
The echoes include similarly turned observations about Diet Cokes and tube tops, as well as a 14-word phrase that is repeated verbatim. In "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life," Viswanathan wrote about Miss Moneypenny, the secretary to James Bond's boss in 007 movies: "Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty."

In McCafferty's "Sloppy Firsts," a story about an adolescent girl published in 2001, there was a similar rumination -- with a similar use of italics -- about one of TV's "Charlie's Angels."

"Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart," McCafferty wrote.

Unconscious? Well, each one of us would react differently to it.

But tell me if I write this:
Getting a book deal seemed like the greatest thing which could possibly happen to someone. To get paid to write? Great. And that you did, with a stunning advance, which everyone bandies about ad nauseum, since it makes your “fall” all the more interesting.

And do not tell you the source source, Sepia Mutiny how sympathetic are you going to be with me? See, I have rearranged a few words in the quote above but the idea is still not mine, even after the re-arrangement.

The Harvard Crimson article says:
DreamWorks has purchased the movie rights to Viswanathan’s novel. A DreamWorks spokesman, Bob Feldman, said Saturday night that the studio could not immediately comment on the matter.


Neither Harvard College’s Administrative Board Guide for Students nor the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Student Handbook mention the ramifications of non-academic plagiarism.

“Our policies on plagiarism apply to work submitted to courses, so questions of academic dishonesty would not apply in cases of non-academic work,” Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 wrote in an e-mail on Sunday. “Nevertheless, we expect Harvard students to conduct themselves with integrity and honesty at all times.”

Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies Werner Sollors, after reviewing a list of 24 similar passages found in “Opal Mehta” and “Sloppy Firsts,” wrote in an e-mail yesterday: “Judging by the excerpts you have assembled, and three department stores and 169 specialty shops later, it looks as though some strong version of anxiety of influence could clearly be detected in ‘How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,’ all the more so because of those miniscule variations that change ‘Human Evolution’ to ‘Psych’ in the hope of making the result less easily googleable.”


Blogger karmic_jay said...

I think the similarities are a bit too eerie.
I wonder if the books is worht reading? Have you read it by any chance?

4/25/2006 9:14 PM  
Blogger Mridula said...

No Jay, I have not read it, neither do I plan to read it. Thanks for stopping by.

4/26/2006 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anirudh said...

Plagiarism, of course, is a big issue. But even if it hadn't been plagiarised, such books, ah! such books- they make me want to strangle the writer.

5/01/2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger Mridula said...

Anirudh, so you don't like Chick lit? Well, I hardly expected you to :)

5/01/2006 12:47 PM  

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