Creative

Young Indian Writer Apologizes for Plagiarism

A young writer actually seems to have copied some passages in her first novel. She had a USD 500,000 deal at age 19!! This is just an amazing story.

The bad news came just as the champagne was to flow with the news that 19-year-old Kaavya Viswanathan’s debut novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life was headed for The New York Times’s national bestseller list.

And the bad news grew bigger over the weekend, quickly forcing the writer to acknowledge that she had borrowed language and passages from two popular books by Megan McCafferty.

But she also asserted through a note sent by her publisher Little Brown that ‘any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious.’

In her statement she apologised to McCafferty and said that future printings of her novel will be revised ‘to eliminate any inappropriate similarities’ to McCafferty — Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings — spoke to me in a way few other books did.’

‘Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel, and passages in these books,’ The New York Times quoted from her e-mail.

Viswanathan, who is about to start the second Opal Mehta novel, called herself in the e-mail to be a ‘huge fan’ of McCafferty, confessing that she wasn’t aware of how much she ‘may have internalized Ms McCafferty’s words.’

It all started when The Harvard Crimson, an independently-run newspaper published by students at Harvard University, reported that Opal Mehta, written when Viswanathan was 17 and which secured her a two-book contract for $500,000, was plagiarised in parts.

Here is an example of the passages that were copied:

From page 213 of McCafferty’s first novel, Sloppy Firsts: ‘Marcus then leaned across me to open the passenger-side door. He was invading my personal space, as I had learned in Psych class, and I instinctively sank back into the seat. That just made him move in closer. I was practically one with the leather at this point, and unless I hopped into the backseat, there was nowhere else for me to go.’

From page 175 of Viswanathan’s novel: ‘Sean stood up and stepped toward me, ostensibly to show me the book. He was definitely invading my personal space, as I had learned in a Human Evolution class last summer, and I instinctively backed up till my legs hit the chair I had been sitting in. That just made him move in closer, until the grommets in the leather embossed the backs of my knees, and he finally tilted the book toward me.’

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Desh Kapoor

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