Monday, April 24, 2006

Next on Oprah and not in a good way

Does this mean I have to disassemble the voodoo doll -- or does this mean that the voodoo worked?

Kaavya Viswanathan, Harvard sophomore, celebrated first novelist, is accused (gulp, pretty justly it appears) of plagiarism, thanks to the investigative efforts of her own school newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. Follow the link for a bit of side-by-side prose comparison.

Apparently, all that envy-slash-hatred we've all been pretending not to feel over her success? Her fellow students have been feeling it more. Note to self: Do not make Harvard undergraduates mad at me.

6 Comments:

Blogger MeiMeiLn said...

I'm torn: I feel bad for the girl, but on the other hand, when presented with the evidence, I'm all like, "How stupid are you?!" Those passages are too much alike for it to be a coincidence. Harvard, what-ev-er!

Mon Apr 24, 05:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger katie said...

D'oh. This is delicious to me, but I typically dwell in the cynical world of the perpetually jealous. This is the first I've heard of either book (and to be honest a little surprised, judging by the excerpts, that either was published!). But I am always relieved to find out that those who think fame and fortune will happen to them if they follow a simple (often scheming) pattern are sadly mistaken.

Mon Apr 24, 06:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger TadMack said...

We discovered this story last April, and were both envious and a little leery of the sudden uptick of stories by South Asian women (and wondered if it was promoting and peddling exoticism in the name of 'culture-sharing').

Other issues I had concerned the fact that this was "chick lit" and that the girl was being aggressively packaged as being part of that genre just for being her age - 17, at the time. I recall thinking that Harvard would love all the buzz (not), it'd be the equivalent of having Danielle Steele as a classmate.

I find myself feeling horrible pity now because she's only nineteen. Is she ever going to be taken seriously again - as a writer, or a lawyer, or a doctor, which is what she wants to be?

I don't have sadness about that JT Leroy conglomorate - they're old and jaded and will find other work - even using their real names. Even James Frey is still under contract, and can get a job doing something else and hide for awhile. But she's got two more years at Harvard...

Tue Apr 25, 12:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Seren said...

You're very compassionate, tadmack. I'm not. In some ways, she ticks me off worse than the other frauds -- Frey and JT at least wrote the works they're in dutch for. It was in the context -- based on a true story! -- that they fudged. They're con artists, but she's a thief.

I do have compassion over the fact, as you say, that she's young and has potentially jeopardized her credibility in other arenas, to say nothing of her "writing" cred. I hope she ends up having a life of some kind, but I'd have trouble trusting her as a genuine writer at this point. I'm normally pretty inclusive about who can sit at my writerly table -- but she's not welcome any more.

Tue Apr 25, 12:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger TadMack said...

Well, reading the schlock that she copied from in the first place... I never felt like she or Megan McCafferty were at *my* writerly table in the first place (with no offense to their writing).

I hate chick lit not just because of the aggressively normalized behavior in the storylines, but also because it's regurgitated plot. In this case - storyline by Mean Girls, title by How Stella Got Her Groove Back and now dialogue by Sloppy Firsts - how is it that we're just now complaining?!

... Still it does seem that Viswanathan was so young when all this started, had stars in her eyes, got into Harvard, and they purchased this story based on an outline included in a college application. $500 thousand for an idea, a dream -- the pressure to succeed must have been immense. I definitely think she did wrong, accidentally or no, and I wouldn't read another bloody thing she wrote, but we created this beast that we're now stoning to death. (We = publishing & media. I'd like to blame them for everything, including my current headache, thanks.)

Tue Apr 25, 01:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Seren said...

You make, as usual, some excellent points, tadmack. Dang you for being so persuasive! My black heart is cracking just a little now.

And your analysis of media madness, chick lit, and the derivativeness of this particular work -- most acute.

Tue Apr 25, 01:50:00 PM EDT  

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