About Plagiarism

I wrote this, but you can also find this at http://www.boston.com. Plagiarism?

Harvard author faces scrutiny
Novel compared with earlier book

A Harvard undergraduate who signed a book deal for reportedly $500,000 while still a freshman is facing allegations that portions of her newly published first novel closely resemble parts of a coming-of-age novel published by a New Jersey writer in 2001.

Kaavya Viswanathan’s ”How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” contains more than a half-dozen passages in which the language closely echoes ”Sloppy Firsts,” published by a division of Random House Inc., including one 14-word sequence that appears in both books. Late last week, Random House sent a letter raising concerns about the similarities to lawyers for Little, Brown and Co., the publishers of ”Opal Mehta,” a spokesman for Random House said yesterday.

”After reading the book in question, and finding passages, characters, and plot points in common, I do hope this can be resolved in a manner that is fair to all of the parties involved,” Megan McCafferty, the author of ”Sloppy Firsts,” said in an e-mail yesterday. ”I am so grateful for the diligence and support of Random House’s legal counsel.”

McCafferty declined a request for an interview. Her agent, Joanna Pulcini, said a fan pointed out the similarities in an e-mail to McCafferty about two weeks ago.

Viswanathan did not answer an e-mail or calls to her campus residence or cellphone yesterday. Her editor did not return phone calls or respond to an e-mail; her agent’s home phone number was busy during repeated calls; and her publicist did not respond to an e-mail. Viswanathan told a reporter for the Harvard Crimson, which first noted similarities between seven passages in the books in a story yesterday, ”I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Viswanathan’s book, the tale of a studious Indian-American girl’s quest for social success, was published this month and climbed to number 32 on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction this week. In an interview with the Globe in February, Viswanathan said she rushed to get the book done during the last few months of her freshman year at Harvard, knocking off 50 pages every two weeks.

”In the last two weeks of school, I was studying for finals while trying to get the last 50 pages done,” she told the Globe.

Born in Chennai, India, Viswanathan lived in England for about a decade before moving to the United States. Her high school college counselor, also a published author, recognized her budding literary talent and helped her get an agent. The agent steered Viswanathan toward a company that helps young writers package book ideas; editors there helped her conceptualize the novel.

”There was more shaping to this book than we usually do,” Asya Muchnick, Viswanathan’s editor, told the Globe in the February interview.
Viswanathan was just 17 when she signed her two-book contract, which was worth approximately $500,000, according to the New York Sun. Michael Pietsch, the head of Little, Brown, told the Globe that Viswanathan’s writing had ”a seeming effortlessness. That’s more astonishing than anything.”

”Sloppy Firsts” and McCafferty’s second novel, ”Second Helpings,” which follow the ups and downs of a witty and angst-ridden New Jersey teenager Jessica Darling, have sold about 300,000 copies combined, according to Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House. The third book in the series, ”Charmed Thirds,” was published in hardcover earlier this month.

Applebaum said Random House lawyers are examining the books for similarities. He said he could not comment on the extent of any similarities or what action the company might take.

”I’m sure everyone will take these concerns very seriously,” he said. ”And more to come.”

One passage from McCafferty’s 2001 novel reads, ”Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart. Guess which one I got. You’ll see where it’s gotten me.”


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  1. 1. Don Lapre Lover | December 17, 2006 #

    It is a sensitive topic and you have shed a good chunk of light on this hot issue.

    Don Lapre Lover

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