Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Coincidence or design

A student, Kaavya Viswanathan, now in her second year at Harvard University, obtained a book deal worth $500,000 while in high school. Her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild And Got A Life, was published last month. Apparently it's sold quite well, though the one review on Amazon is not complimentary. The plot seems quite interesting from its blurb. However, as reported in the university's newspaper, The Crimson, it appears that Ms Viswanathan has lifted several passages from two previously published novels by Megan McCafferty, namely Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. The Crimson also reproduces several of the relevant passages, and the similarity is appalling.

I have two problems with this. Firstly, I've read the two books by McCafferty, and liked them. They're teen fiction, but well written, and very enjoyable. It's perhaps unsurprising that Ms Viswanathan would have read them, and been influenced by the style. If the plagiarism is unconscious, it doesn't say much about Ms Viswanathan's originality - which is odd, for someone of whom Little, Brown thought highly enough of that they gave her a publishing contract in high school.

And secondly, if the plagiarism is conscious, then there are possibly two ways to take this. That she was deliberately quoting from an author she admired - in which case a polite letter to Ms McCafferty or her publisher, indicating this, would have been in order. Or, that she was hoping that the similarities would pass unnoticed (though Ms McCafferty was alerted to the plagiarism by an email from a fan) - in which case, this does not say much for Ms Viswanathan's integrity.

It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

Update: news from Rediff states that Ms Viswanathan has apologised to Ms McCafferty for the inadvertent plagiarism in her book. Plans are afoot to correct the similar passages for subsequent reprints.


At Tue Apr 25, 03:39:00 pm, Blogger Wyndham said...

It's a disgrace and not the kind of thing I can condone, particularly as a budding author I'm about to publish the first of a trilogy, Lord Of The Trings: Fellowship Of the Tring.

At Tue Apr 25, 06:05:00 pm, Blogger Tamburlaine said...

All the people in Tring will be thinking that it's some kind of roman-a-clef.


Post a Comment

<< Home