Background here on the young plagiarist. I’m not a newspaper so no re-caps here. Go read the stories yourself if you’re interested.
I will just say to the girl in question: Welcome to the Plagiarism Pantheon, Missie! You’re getting an early start!
Comparison of passages in the two books here.
Her book should actually be called “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, Got a Life, and Became a Raging Feckin’ Plagiarist.”
Here are two of the passages (although if you read the whole list, you begin to realize that this chick seems to have copied the whole damn book, adding a word here and there and making all of the characters Indian instead of white – BAH) – the original is first, Ms. Teenage Plagiarist is second:
On page 213 of McCafferty’s book: “He was invading my personal space, as I had learned in Psych. class, and I instinctively sunk back into the seat. That just made him move in closer. I was practically one with the leather at this point, and unless I hopped into the backseat, there was nowhere else for me to go.”
On page 175 of Viswanathan’s book: “He was definitely invading my personal space, as I had learned in Human Evolution class last summer, and I instinctively backed up till my legs hit the chair I had been sitting in. That just made him move in closer, until the grommets in the leather embossed the backs of my knees, and he finally tilted the book toward me.”
The first passage (the original) isn’t even all that well-written. It’s flat uninteresting prose, in my opinion – so she’s plagiarizing bad obvious writing in the first place. Maybe she thought no one would notice? Cheater. CHEATER. And our Plagiarist just made the writing worse by adding general words like “definitely” – Ew. Bad. BAD. She also suddenly changes from first-person to omniscent viewing which is stupid and hackneyed and BAD. How would the narrator know that the grommets were embossed on the backs of her legs? You got eyes in the back of your head, Opal? You little unoriginal twit. Talk about how the leather FEELS on the back of the knees, not how it looks. Writing 101. grrrrrr
The original passage says “I was practically one with the leather at this point” … which, whatever, it’s cliched lazy writing – but it’s first-person, and … uhm … SHE WROTE IT.
Now our little prodigy adds in “grommets” and “embossed” and thinks she’s hoodwinked all of us.
Stories like this make me mad. So you have been over-praised, over-indulged, you are treated like a prodigy, you are only 17 … and oh, woe is me, you can’t wite your wittle book all by yo lonesome and have to copy someone else’s wittle book?
Something about plagiarism is like staring at a car-wreck. I don’t get the psychology – or, no, that’s not true: I DO get it … and so anytime anyone plagiarizes anything (or, like Stephen Glass, made shit up) … I just HAVE to watch it unfold. I want to know (broken record) what it is in some people that … could allow them to do that. I just … would never do it. Never!!
I’ve got a plagiarist story from 4th grade … the first time I ever encountered someone copying someone else’s work. I didn’t even know that such a thing existed – it was just beyond my imagination. I’m not saying that like “Whoo-hoo yay for me” – I understood the concept of cheating on quizzes, I understood that you were not supposed to do that … but at that early stage we were barely writing compositions yet – and so nobody had ever explained plagiarism – and therefore the concept didn’t even exist to me. I was also good at writing, already, so I didn’t have maybe the anxiety that other kids had – about doing well on writing assignments or whatever (Math was another story) – but if I had a writing assignment, I sat down and did it, and hashed it out in my own 9 year old brain.
We had to write a poem for homework.
We pass in our poems the next day and the following day after the teacher had read all of them, she made an announcement, “I just loved reading all of your poems – but ONE of them just really stood out for me and I’m going to read it to the class! So and so wrote wrote the most AMAZING poem!” The so-and-so was not me, and I don’t remember being surprised about this. I wasn’t really into writing poetry. You know, it wasn’t my genre. You know. I knew my genre, at 9 years old. But the “so and so” who had written this amazing poem was, to put it mildly, kind of a mess. Even at 9. We actually were friends, of a sort – I always liked her – and now, looking back on her, she reminds me of a young Jodie Foster. She had that kind of tough worldly been-around-the-block air, even though she was a kid. But academically, she always had a hard time. She was a very smart girl, but she was a total trouble-maker. Always was.
So our teacher reads to the class So-and-so’s poem in a ringing proud voice:
Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.
I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!
Why do I remember this so vividly?? The revelation of who actually wrote that poem wouldn’t come until later – so – maybe I’m retrospectively making this scene up – but here is what I remember – Well, first of all: I REMEMBER that poem being read. Why would it stick with me for so many years? For whatever reason, it made an impression on me. I remember looking over at so-and-so while her poem was read – and she was looking down at her desk and – I just felt like something was wrong. This is not a vivid memory – all that stays with me is a vague sense of something being “off”. In my extensive experience with literary analysis, at age 9, it didn’t seem like those words had come from her. But there our teacher was, literally overwhelmed with happiness, bombarding So-and-so with praise. She made us all clap. “So-and-so – this is just terrific! Really – wonderful job!” (She was one of my favorite teachers by the way. Now that so many of my friends and family are teachers I can guess what was going on there: So-and-so was a troubled kid, a fidgety and sometimes mean tomboy, who was already smoking cigarettes at that point. Nice girl, but obviously a mess. Not good with the homework and the schoolwork. And here she had actually done the assignment and not only done it but written this brilliant and funny poem!! The teacher obviously didn’t recognize it. So I can see that this was the teacher’s way of just letting So-and-so know she had done a GREAT JOB. The teacher was excited to see So-and-so put some effort into her work.)
I know it was a couple months after that that I first read Alice in Wonderland. I know it was the same schoolyear. And as I tripped along thru the book for the first time, loving it, I came across the Duchess’ song … about beating the little boy when he sneezes … and I felt a cold wave wash over me. I remember this vividly.
I just felt HORRIBLE. It was as though I had picked up a rock and seen slimy muddy worms wriggling around beneath. The whole experience was unclean.
We had all been DUPED. We had all been TRICKED. My favorite teacher was TRICKED.
And I sure as hell wasn’t a tattle-tale … but I still felt really really bad about the whole experience. I remembered so-and-so looking down at her desk. I felt this strange kind of RAGE in my heart towards her. I wanted to confront her. But then I also felt really really sorry for her. Like – I don’t know – the way she had looked down at her desk when “her” poem was being read out – I just knew that that was not a triumphant moment for her. If she had GLOATED about it – then maybe I would have confronted her (you know, in my 9 year old way) – but as it was, I just felt really sad. Why had she copied?? Why had she done that?? And I went into school the next day and KEPT stealing glances across the room at so-and-so … because I wanted to just see if I could see inside her brain. See what it was like to be a person who would do that.
Poor girl. She was lost. She had a rough life, and is no longer with us, which is terribly sad. I can feel the anxiety in her actions now, in looking back on it… she felt she couldn’t write a poem … she probably had no help at home, no one looking after her … so she copied one and passed it off as her own.
I felt really sad. I was mad, too, because of the TRICKERY, but mainly I felt sad.
It’s quite a different deal when you’re a wunderkind prodigy with a huge book deal at the age of 17 – and you then pretty much copy someone else’s entire mediocre book, adding in words like “definitely” to “make it your own”, and pass yourself off as the author.
Ugly. UGLY. Loser.