Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The tale that is Kaavya Viswanathan

you know the "author" is going to show up on Oprah, tearfully defending herself.

Back in highschool I utilized Cliffs Notes. I know you did too so get off your high horse and just admit it. Those things were invented for busy students who didn't have time to read through novels like the Red Badge of Courage . If only Sweet Valley High was required reading back then...

I never copied passages word for word, I embellished and switched words around. Then I handed in my term papers, turning blue from holding my breath that the teacher wouldn't recognize my reconfigured wording. I thought perhaps the teachers had some master list of key words and phrases lifted from those guides and they were just waiting to charge me with plagiarism. I would be thrown into jail at only sixteen years old and spend eternity wishing I had sucked it up and just read Lord of the Flies. Orange jumpsuits are so not my thing.

So imagine my shock and despair in learning about young Kaavya Viswanathan. Tsk tsk. I guess she is wishing she just sucked it up and wrote from her imagination instead of open copies of popular novels sitting in front of her while Laguna Beach played in the background. Did she highlight passages and take notes or simply retain what she read?
My friend emailed me today to fill me in on the latest:

Apparently there are accusations against three other authors, as well as the first (who is Meagan McCafferty). The new three are Meg Cabot (plagiarized from the Princess Diaries), Salamon Rushdie (huh? She plagiarized the Satanic Verses??? No, I don't know what book it was, but he WAS specifically mentioned as being plagiarized from), and Sophie Kinsella (from Can You Keep A Secret?).

The book is titled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life : A Novel. Maybe a more gripping title would be How Kaavya Copied, Cheated, Stole and Got a Book Deal: A Tragedy. You can read all about her and the sad tale that is her six figure advance by looking here and here. And here.

Seriously, if you're going to copy someone's novel you should really take from an abstract book no one has ever heard of. Meg Cabot? Hello! Sophie Kinsella? Zoinks! What the hell was Kaavya thinking?


Anonymous Anonymous said...
At first I thought, "oh, give her a break" - but once you read the passages side by side, it's just AWFUL! This is going to have a terrible trickle-down effect on everyone in the industry for so long. Getting into the field will be even harder for new authors now! What a shame she did so much damage with her youthful carelessness. There is much discussion about the fact that she wasn't initially skewered by the press (but rather given a sort of grace), possibly either because she's a minority, an ivy-league student, young, attractive, or a combination of those.

Oh, and the Salmon Rushdie book that is allegedly copied is: "Haroun and the Sea of Stories".
Cheese Melt
;-) @ 11:52 PM  
Blogger plurabella said...
On the other hand, perhaps editors will now be more careful in doing their jobs and some checking. @ 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure we all know that this is an INDUSTRY and business we're talking about. I totally believe she was unethical and definitely steered. However, A Million Little Pieces sure did receive a lot of publicity and lookee here - yet another media swarm with reference to these other authors...
I smell conspiracy (can it be smelled?)
I dunno @ 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Actually, no. At my school, only stoners and losers used Cliffs Notes. (Monarch Notes were more upscale and obscure) Perhaps if you'd eschewed the notes for the actual books, you'd have a book deal now instead of a blog.

Admittedly, I'm a snob and a prig. But I have to say, for someone who wants to be taken seriously in the writing community, DJ, your easy breezy take on literary ethics is somewhat troubling. First your defense of Frey's lies, now this revelation. Yeesh. @ 7:20 PM  
Blogger Distressed Jeans said...
I did read the books, thanks. I think I used Cliffs Notes a handful of times but I dont recall and I certainly wasnt a stoner. Cliffs Notes were available at the public library. And I wasnt a loser, I was a straight A student in honors classes. But thanks for judging me!

I think people are turned off by the snobbery of the literary community (generally speaking of course) and I hope to encourage people to pick up books and explore different novels through having a site that IS breezy and light and not serious in tone. Lets just have fun, talk about books and get along. Im sure there are some big fat literary masterpieces out there you need to read.

Why are you such a judgemental snob? Just curious. @ 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Carole said...
Hey 7:40 --

You may think you are intelligent but the fact that you insist on leaving nasty notes reeks of a lack of simple manners.

I dont care how smart you may or may not be, its horribly rude to visit someone else's blog and leave malicious comments. Does it make you feel better to put others down?

You are not only snobby by your own admission, but extremely rude.

Id love to check out your blog or website or read your book. Do tell, how can I get in touch with someone so great as yourself? @ 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
You're TOTALLY right, anon 7:20! You are indeed a snob and a prig! @ 11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I read the source from which she reportedly copied, and I'd be surprised if THAT wasn't copied!

All in all, pretty unoriginal writing from both of these clowns. You get what you invest your time in. @ 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
My criticism was of DJ's take on literary ethics. To paraphrase, "Poor James Frey was pilloried in the press when his book was SO good!" or "Hey, we all plagarize at some point in our lives. I know I did!"

If it's snobbish to insist that books be written by the authors who claim they wrote them or that the experiences they share in their memoirs actually are actually based on their memories and not outright lies, then I am a snob of the highest order. And if DJ can't handle criticism of her ethics on her own blog, she's gonna get rocked in the free press should she ever get published.

People, this isn't a forum to share ideas. DJ doesn't write this to entertain herself or you. This is a stage on which DJ hopes to draw attention to herself and get a book deal.

FYI, I don't have a blog. Blogging is for ugly people. You know, like radio announcers. @ 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
2:36, you almost sounded like you had a cohesive thought, that is until you said "Blogging is for ugly people. You know, like radio announcers." - -Um, yeah, real mature.

You should ask yourself why you're returning to this site? Do you fancy yourself a literary-correctness-police-type-person? A Book-Critic-Superhero-Wannabe? Do you tirelessly surf the net, searching out book sites, so you can monitor them and make sure that everyone is playing by the rules? Perhaps you just enjoy making a nasty anonymous comment ("crank calling of the new millenium": anonymous posting), and then you get a big thrill by returning and seeing the rise you got out of people. You've obviously followed DJs comments, as you refer to several different postings, and you've commented negatively on them all, so....what are you doing here? Why are you returning? Do you enjoy eating shit and then go back for more? Isn't that what you're saying here, that you think DJ is an idiot and yet you keep returning to see what she's posted next, so you can comment on it?

Some of us like to read what DJ has posted - you obviously don't. Go away & don't come back....what's you're point in returning? @ 1:03 PM  
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