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April  24

Borrowed Text?

A Million Little Pieces, The Da Vinci Code, and now another book in print is getting a closer look, this time from a young Millburn author...

Fc0316059889 Kaavya Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" was published in March by Little, Brown and Co., which signed her to a hefty two-book deal when she was just 17.

On Sunday, the Harvard Crimson reported the similarities on its Web site, citing seven passages in Viswanathan's book that parallel the style and language of "Sloppy Firsts," a novel by Megan McCafferty that Random House published.

Viswanathan, of Millburn, N.J., whose book hit 32nd on The New York Times' hardcover fiction best seller list this week, did not return a phone message seeking comment. On Saturday, she told the Crimson: "No comment. I have no idea what you are talking about."

Michael Pietsch, the publisher of Little, Brown, said Sunday that the company will investigate the similarities.

"I can't believe that these are anything but unintentional," Pietsch said. "She is a wonderful young woman."

April 24, 2006 in Books | Permalink


Looks like she lifted at least some of the other book. That's too bad.

Posted by: State Street Pete | Apr 24, 2006 5:07:11 PM

Ah, the ultimate form of flattery.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 24, 2006 5:09:18 PM

I have no idea if she lifted passages or not, but how ridiculous is it that people think they can still get away with this stuff in this day and age? It's like CEO's lying on their cvs. Hello? Anyone home?

Posted by: montclair_is_crazy | Apr 24, 2006 5:10:00 PM

Plagiarism has many defenses. All, when the plagiarist is nailed, are unconvincing. But to claim that such borrowing was "unintentional," when merely to put words on a page is generally viewed as intentional (unless, perhaps one is a medium practicing "automatic writing"), is the most ridiculous such defense. Ms. Visnawathan clearly has some explaining to do.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 24, 2006 5:12:22 PM

I think I'll write a book that takes place in suburbia called "RattledShaken"

Posted by: appletony | Apr 24, 2006 5:15:10 PM

Perhaps a mixup of etymology and entomology: because the tracts lack quotation marks under the rules of "Pissant Grammar" this does not (and could not) ever constitute plagiarism.

She should get pissant to defend her.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 24, 2006 5:31:40 PM

Wow! If you read the article in Harvard's newspaper, it doesn't look good for our Millburn author. More than a few of the examples are practically the same as the original source.

Posted by: laila's mom | Apr 24, 2006 6:39:51 PM

Ignorancia non excusat (???)

Posted by: Dog Mom | Apr 24, 2006 6:54:21 PM

Barista, enough airtime for plagarists.
Let's hear about some local talent like Jim Broderick of GR!

Posted by: PAZ in Chi (AMiL) | Apr 24, 2006 7:04:39 PM


why don't uou call it "stirred" or "battered but not buised"

Posted by: pissant | Apr 24, 2006 7:18:27 PM

Nah, we need more airtime for plagiarists.

The Crimson piece - here ya go - http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512965 - does make it look pretty bad for our budding young "author."

Posted by: crank | Apr 24, 2006 7:23:42 PM

Thank you for the link, crank. It does look bad for our local novelist. Since this is an era of "sampling" in music, however, I wonder if authors think it's equally okay lately to "sample" someone else's work. In bits that don't take more than 30 seconds to read, too.

I also now have to wonder how many other writers' work may have been sampled in Ms. Visnawathan's novel.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 24, 2006 7:31:30 PM

After reading the examples from both books in the Star-Ledger, Miss Viswanathan does have some explaining to do, not that it makes a difference. Intellectual property is probably our most sacrosanct possession, and while we have no idea if this was intentional, her replies seem to indicate she has been caught in an embarrassing situation. It might have been wiser to admit to reading Ms. McCafferty's book a long time ago, or something like that. Claiming to have no knowledge of the other book, when several portions have been lifted almost verbatim, well that is brazen, to sat the least.

Posted by: Lee Blair | Apr 24, 2006 7:31:50 PM

Lee Blair, when, back in h.s. we were semi-taught how to write papers, we were also taught to footnote "intentional" liftings from others.

To have so many cited passages soclose to another author's book (at least one author, that is) hardly indicates merely that Visnawathan read McCafferty's book at some point before starting her own. It's more in the vein of, she had it open beside her as she worked on her "own" novel. And as more than a "study aid," so to speak.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 24, 2006 7:42:32 PM

"I also now have to wonder how many other writers' work may have been sampled in Ms. Visnawathan's novel."

Exactly what I was thinking.

Posted by: crank | Apr 24, 2006 7:44:22 PM

Update of story: She admits to possible "inadvertant" similarities.


Posted by: jc | Apr 24, 2006 8:08:45 PM

Sorry, the word should be "unintentional"

Also, The Harvard Crimson has an update:

Posted by: jc | Apr 24, 2006 8:16:17 PM

"I can't believe it"-"She is a wonderful young woman." --"he was a quiet guy"---I love those kind of broad brush statements after a crime of any kind is comitted as if you walk around with your crime capability tattooed on your forehead--

I always used to laugh and say if I get arrested for a crime----my neighbors and friends and family would just stand in line to tell the press--"it was just a matter of time--powder keg I tell you"-

byt the way I am starting a novel,,-it begins with "It was a dark and stormy night" ...

Posted by: cstarling | Apr 24, 2006 8:21:34 PM

If you start your novel as described, Clarice, you may well have to reckon with the estate of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Or at least with those worthy academics who run the yearly contest where your example of bad writing must start with exactly that phrase.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 24, 2006 10:44:25 PM

Wow! Her updated comments in the Crimson almost make her worse in my opinion. I wouldn't accept the "unintentional borrowing of phrasing" from my seventh and eighth grade students!

I wonder if I "unintentionally borrowed" someone else's credit card, would I be considered off the hook, since I am a decent, hard working, former ivy leaguer?

Gosh, accept the rap and be a model for yourself and the world....

Posted by: laila's mom | Apr 24, 2006 11:23:09 PM

"The night started like any other April evening...it was a dark and stormy...i had just settled down with my autographed copy of 'Rattled' when my cell phone rang..."

To be continued...

Posted by: Iceman | Apr 24, 2006 11:23:56 PM

i was "internalizing"(see drudge) the immortal forgery of Snoopy's novel actually - he's my inspiration-

-"It was a dark and stormy evening when I saw him outside a club in Jersy. Even then he had the air of someone special, someone noteworthy. His eyes never met mine but I wondered ..." :)

Posted by: cstarling | Apr 24, 2006 11:31:31 PM

you just never know...

Posted by: cstarling | Apr 24, 2006 11:34:41 PM

Did you read the passages in question?
This is to plagerism what stealing a Jugo is to car theft.

Posted by: Bitpusher | Apr 25, 2006 12:08:13 AM

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gusts of wind which swept up the streets and blew the occasional piece of litter(for it is in Glen Ridge that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the gas lamps that struggled against the darkness (at $250,000.00 per year cost to the township).

I had just settled down with my autographed copy of 'Rattled' and a glass of Jameson when my cell phone rang.

I'm not sure if rang is the proper word since I have chosen to have it play La Cucaraccha instead of a ringtone.

In any case, it was Ice (The Man!).

to be continued...

Posted by: pissant | Apr 25, 2006 12:27:47 AM

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