How Kaavya Viswanathan Got Charged With Plagiarism...

The 18-year old Indian's fairly-tale debut with record advances, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, comes under the scanner as "striking parallels" are found with two books by Megan F. McCafferty

How Kaavya Viswanathan Got Charged With Plagiarism...

Harvard's Crimson reports that KaavyaViswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Lifecontains several passages that are strikingly similar to two books by Megan F.McCafferty -- the 2001 novel Sloppy Firsts and the 2003 novel SecondHelpings.

The Crimson quotes McCafferty's agent Joanna Pulcini, according towhom the author found learned about the similarities on April 11 in an e-mailfrom a fan. Pulcini then notified Random House, which published both ofMcCafferty’s novels.

A 14-word passage, it would appear, is a verbatim reproduction fromMcCafferty’s book Sloppy Firsts, page 6 of which has the followingpassage:

"Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of howevery girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart. Guess which one I got.You’ll see where it’s gotten me."

On page 39 of Opal Mehta, there is a passage as follows:

"Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example ofhow every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty. I had long resignedmyself 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 tocategory two."

The Crimson points out that the italics appear in the originals, and goes onto show more similarities. For example, Page 237 of McCafferty’s book SloppyFirsts has the following line:

"Finally, four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, wewere done."

Wonder of wonders, Kaavya Viswanathan's Opal Mehta on page 51, hasthis:

"Five department stores, and 170 specialty shops later, I was sick oflistening to her hum along to Alicia Keys...."

It does not end there. McCafferty's second novel, Second Helpings,too, has its fair share of lines finding an echo in Opal Mehta. Considerpage 67 of Second Helpings which has the following:

"...but in a truly sadomasochistic dieting gesture, they chose to buy theirDiet Cokes at Cinnabon."

And then page 46 of Opal Mehta, which has:

"In a truly masochistic gesture, they had decided to buy Diet Cokes fromMrs. Fields..."

The Crimson says Viswanathan, when asked to respond, just said, "Nocomment. I have no idea what you are talking about."

There has been no comment yet from her publishers, Little Brown yet, thoughcritics have been scathing. The Crimson quotes Werner Sollors, the CabotProfessor of English Literature and Professor of African and African AmericanStudies, as saying, "Judging by the excerpts you have assembled, and threedepartment stores and 169 specialty shops later, it looks as though some strongversion of anxiety of influence could clearly be detected in How Opal MehtaGot Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, all the more so because of thoseminiscule variations that change ‘Human Evolution’ to ‘Psych’ in thehope of making the result less easily googleable."

What confounds the critics though is as to why the instances cited -- therewere as many as 24 instances of such "parallels" -- found their waywithout even cosmetic changes to make detection difficult. On the other hand, the cosmetic changes, where introduced, are perhaps even more telling.