How Kaavya Viswanathan Got [Insert Witticism Here]

Since I’m designated cat-sitter for The Babu and Partner, and since they’re off putting their feet up and eating prawn curry in undisclosed locations, I thought I might as well do a spot of blog-sitting too.

The New York Times, which wrote about the book earlier this month, now tells us that Ms Viswanathan has been accused of plagiarising parts of the book and that she will change those passages in the future editions.

Heh. So she’s expecting future editions.

Maud Newton links to a metafilter comment:

Kaavya was my student last spring (in a section where I was a TA). I was surprised to learn she had written a book, as her writing was awful– I had given her low grades on her papers.

I feel bad for her, even though she was always falling asleep in section (as if you don’t notice a snoozing person sitting at a conference table for ten). Plagiarizing from chick lit has to be some kind of double whammy against artistic integrity.

Via Grumpy Old Bookman, here’s the Harvard Crimson page that I hear broke the story (and an updated version here.) Ms V has subsequently apologised.

And yes, the litblogosphere has lots to say.

Enjoy.

7 comments

  1. Oy, J.A.P.,Quoting my links back at me? grinstutistutters,You’re mixing things up a bit. The Babu is Bong and demonstrably literate, as is J.A.P. I’m the illiterate guestblogger, but alas, to my eternal shame, I can’t even claim hon-Bong status.

  2. One comment somewhere talked about how, in each case, Viswanathan improved slightly on the passage she copied from. I felt this to be true as well, and am fascinated by it. I think it’s a bit rich to be going on and on about plagiarism in a kind of genre fiction whose saleability clearly rests on using a set of pre-given boyfriend-search driven plots, with typical characters, and a typical, standard, safe, cutesy, chuckle-a-minute kind of prose. Rather, why not propose this as a standard model for chick-lit and similar genres: you are required to copy out the previous book and change it only slightly to improve it wherever you can. Over several generations of copying this might eventually lead to a work that is as rich, deep, stylish, sophisticated and intelligent as a Jane Austen novel! But then again I’d rather read Austen in the first place.

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