Monday, April 24, 2006

How Kaavya Viswanathan Got Busted

Wunderkind Kaavya Viswanathan -- the Harvard sophomore who at age seventeen received a $500,000 advance (and DreamWorks movie deal) for her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, released amid much buzz by Little, Brown last month, and its yet-to-be-published follow-up -- has been exposed as a plagiarist, having torn passages from two books by Megan McCafferty. Viswanathan has copped to "internaliz[ing] Ms. McCafferty's words"; any similarities, she says, are "completely unintentional and unconscious." Compare these two passages and decide for yourself whether this is mere internalization:

McCafferty: "Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart."

Viswanathan: "Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty."

Yes, the italics are in both originals. The Harvard Crimson has more examples. So does the Globe.

UPDATE (4/25/06, 7:41 AM): The New York Times says "there are at least 29 passages that are strikingly similar."

UPDATE 2 (4/25/06, 9:18 PM): Random House, McCafferty's publisher, has "documented more than forty passages . . . that contain identical language and/or common scene or dialogue structure."

UPDATE 3 (4/28/06, 6:47 AM): Little, Brown is recalling Opal Mehta.

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