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Thread: Another Plagiarist Poised to Bite the Dust

  1. #1

    Another Plagiarist Poised to Bite the Dust

    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.

    http://www.boston.com/ae/books/artic...aces_scrutiny/

    A Sampling of "Coincidences":

    ‘YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE’

    From page 6 of McCafferty’s first novel: “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.”

    From page 39 of Viswanathan’s novel: “Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty. I had long resigned myself to category one, and as long as it got me to Harvard, I was happy. Except, it hadn’t gotten me to Harvard. Clearly, it was time to switch to category two.”

    ‘I NEEDED IN A BEST FRIEND’

    From page 7 of McCafferty’s first novel: “Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend. But that was before Bridget’s braces came off and her boyfriend Burke got on, before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors classes.

    From page 14 of Viswanathan’s novel: “Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend. We had first bonded over our mutual fascination with the abacus in a playgroup for gifted kids. But that was before freshman year, when Priscilla’s glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends got on.”

    ‘BIG JOKE’

    From page 23 of McCafferty’s first novel: “He’s got dusty reddish dreads that a girl could never run her hands through. His eyes are always half-shut. His lips are usually curled in a semi-smile, like he’s in on a big joke that’s being played on you but you don’t know it yet.”

    From page 48 of Viswanathan’s novel: “He had too-long shaggy brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were always half shut. His mouth was always curled into a half smile, like he knew about some big joke that was about to be played on you.”

    More here:

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512965
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  2. #2
    Socialitest Bravo's Avatar
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    damn.

    i thought these sorts of things were impossible to prove.


    ooops

  3. #3
    what's the point of living if you're living a lie?
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  4. #4
    Socialitest Bravo's Avatar
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    im a slut for attention.

  5. #5
    Touch and go robeiae's Avatar
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    It was an homage. Just like the SW fanfic book.

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  6. #6
    Joker Groupie Celia Cyanide's Avatar
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    Why do people think they can get away with stuff like this?
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  7. #7
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    Now the next question I have is for the romance book authors.


    Can anyone find instances of this kind of plagiarism in other books inside this genre? I suspect many of the trite phrasings and whatnot do tend to cross-pollinate in such a verbal, movie-script-ready style.

    Anyway, just me trying to take the other side for it's own sake.

  8. #8
    Living the dream CaroGirl's Avatar
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    I can't believe the nerve of some people. It's apalling, galling, and any other "-alling" you can think of. The only satisfaction is that she got caught, and now she's ruined as a writer. But just think of all the people who are doing this who aren't caught. You think there are a lot? I ask, as I work my fingers to the nubs and my mind to its limits trying to create an original work of art out of my raw imagination. (what a novel idea!)

  9. #9
    Super Moderator SuperModerator Stew21's Avatar
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    I always have to wonder when I see things like this: WTF was she thinking?

    I'd rather do something all my own and have it go largely unnoticed than take credit for something that isn't mine.
    Sometimes I actually write stuff
    Like this...
    If a tree falls in Hesperides

  10. #10
    Joker Groupie Celia Cyanide's Avatar
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    I wonder how many there are, too. It probably is difficult to catch people, but I wonder if most writers don't do it because the would only get satisfaction from taking credit for their own work. I would hope so.
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  11. #11
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celia Cyanide
    ...but I wonder if most writers don't do it because the would only get satisfaction from taking credit for their own work...
    There's always the half million, though that just makes it more mysterious, for the writing doesn't seem to be nearly good enough.

  12. #12
    banned as an incurable tosspot billythrilly7th's Avatar
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    OUTCAST

  13. #13
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    Here's a question, if she was thirty, and got paid only 5000 dollars for her book, would you be so quick to jump on her?


    I'm not saying she's guilty or innocent, or that the evidence doesn't seem to suggest something sinister. I am saying that I bet -- in the romance and low-end chicklit genre -- that many of these phrases and expressions pop up merely because people on the street do and say exactly these things, and authors are pulling directly from their own lives.

    The next question, to me, is where did these two authors live?

    Answer: New Jersey. One grew up in Hackensack. The other lives in Princeton.

    All you New Jersey people know how pervasive the mannerisms and vocal expressions can be in such a place, especially among young women.

  14. #14
    quit it ducky. the examples prove she's basically refashioned the exact same sentence structure.

    this isn't about mannerisms.
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  15. #15
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badducky
    ... in the romance and low-end chicklit genre ...
    A half million advance for low-end chicklit, and it wasn't even finished? What's the real story, I wonder.
    Last edited by Julie Worth; 04-24-2006 at 11:23 PM.

  16. #16
    Dreamer of dreams, teller of tales Absolute Sage Susan Gable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badducky
    Now the next question I have is for the romance book authors.
    I must have missed the first question if this is the next question.

    Can anyone find instances of this kind of plagiarism in other books inside this genre?
    First, these books are NOT in the romance genre. Not at all. They are mainstream books, and if you read William's post, it specifically labels the one book as a "coming of age" story.

    Second, yes, certain phrases might be used by a "standard" population group (be they a specific genre or a geographical location group - for example, the Southern phrase, "bless her heart," when saying something snarky about someone) more frequently, but look closely the samples William posted. That's not using similiar phrases. That looks very much like what a kid (and let's face it, this author IS a kid) does in a report - they copy the information from the source, making minor changes here and there, thinking that makes it okay.

    This is not at ALL like the suit against Dan Brown where the claimants said he basically "stole their idea" and had some plot similarities pop up - with their NON-FICTION book. This is theft of phrases. Someone's actual words.

    The romance community has a very famous (infamous?) case of plagerism in which best-seller Nora Roberts was ripped off by another writer. (Another writer who continues to publish, and whose books, to my everlasting chargin and annoyance, my mother continues to buy despite the fact that I scold her every single time I catch her with one of those books.)

    I think blatent theft of another writer's words is (or SHOULD be!) an unforgivable offense within the writing community.

    Susan G.
    Last edited by Susan Gable; 04-24-2006 at 11:23 PM.
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  17. #17
    Court Jester Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    Wow. How do these nobodies pull down 6 figure contracts on their first book?
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  18. #18
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    I'm taking the other side just for the sake of taking the other side.

    We are innocent until proven guilty. At least let's wait for the other author to say something.

    I'm not saying she's blameless. I'm saying dancing on the corpse of her career before the victim says a word, and before the accused has a chance to defend herself is not cool.

    We are quick to jump on the plagiarism bandwagon.

    So, someone has to speak up for her.

  19. #19
    Dreamer of dreams, teller of tales Absolute Sage Susan Gable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badducky
    I am saying that I bet -- in the romance and low-end chicklit genre -- .
    Dude, do some homework before you toss out cra* like that. These books are NOT romances, nor low-end chicklit genre novels.

    I assure you, newbie romance authors and chick-lit authors (especially those at the "low-end" of chick lit, whatever that is) don't get 500K advances. Not even close. Take it down by a multiple of 100 and you'll get the average new (or even partially established) romance writer's advance.

    This is mainstream.

    Susan G.
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  20. #20
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    ''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.

    That's from the Boston article posted. the words I see that stand out "I do hope this can be resolved in a manner that is fair to all of the parties involved".

    She isn't saying the P-Word. No one involved in the case is using that word, yet. And, the "author" doesn't get a word in edgewise.

  21. #21
    believe me, i have a healthy respect for playing devil's advocate, but christ, man, it's there for you in black and white.

    as distasteful as the schadenfreude of "dancing on the corpse of her career" might be, it's far less egregious than any supposed writer defending what's right there in front of your face.

    all i can say is that's 500k that could have been used to launch a legitimate author's career.
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  22. #22
    Dreamer of dreams, teller of tales Absolute Sage Susan Gable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badducky
    We are innocent until proven guilty. At least let's wait for the other author to say something.
    I think the examples William posted speak for themselves. What kind of evidence would you like to see? And when the author speaks up, what do you think she's going to say? Not too many people, even if they are guilty, have the cajones to 'fess up and say so. Do you think she's likely to say, yeah, I copied those passages from the other book?

    What kind of concrete evidence do you think a jury would be presented with? I'm guessing it would comparitive samples much like the ones William provided.

    And yes, I'd jump on her even if she was older and only got a 5k advance for her work. The fact that she got 500K makes it only worse.

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  23. #23
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    Aside from the copying aspect of the crime, I'm wondering how the freshman's book drew so much attention from a publisher.

  24. #24
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Gable
    I think the examples William posted speak for themselves. What kind of evidence would you like to see? And when the author speaks up, what do you think she's going to say? Not too many people, even if they are guilty, have the cajones to 'fess up and say so. Do you think she's likely to say, yeah, I copied those passages from the other book?

    What kind of concrete evidence do you think a jury would be presented with? I'm guessing it would comparitive samples much like the ones William provided.

    And yes, I'd jump on her even if she was older and only got a 5k advance for her work. The fact that she got 500K makes it only worse.

    Susan G.
    Hey, she's just 19. As a reviewer said on Amazon, cut her some slack. Maybe she had this stuff in her subconscious and it came out. (Didn't Helen Keller do that once?) Sure, I know it looks bad. She got 500 g's for a chick lit piece, even though it wasn't finished, even though chick lit is dead. Is that any reason for us, we pathetic creatures who've been toiling for years and years with book after book, living under a bridge with only scraps to eat, to throw stones at this beautiful Harvard girl, screaming ugly words like plagiarist? Well yeah...guess I talked myself into it. <bends down with a screwdriver to pry up a cobblestone>

  25. #25
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    Until the author that's been wronged says the P-word, I'm not going to use that word, or jump to any conclusions, or point any fingers, no matter what the evidence suggests.

    I hope that -- god forbid -- if someone plagiarizes my writing, I'll be given the courtesy to be the one that makes the call.

    I also hope that if someone ever incorrectly accuses me of plagiarism, I'll be given the chance to respond to the accusation before the public burning. I doubt I'm the only person on this message board who was accused of plagiarism in high school merely because my writing was too good for someone my age.

    I can think of too many cases where -- in the many kids' cartoons I know and love -- similar ideas were created by individuals with no knowledge of the others merely because such ideas were "in the air". I can think of such occurances in the cheap thrillers I read in high school.

    Let the people involved speak first. Then, we dance on the brutalized corpse of this kid's career.

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