Plagiarism Memory Lane

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.”

An observation:

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?

Buh-bye, loser.

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.

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52 Responses to Plagiarism Memory Lane

  1. John says:

    My first brush with this crap was a freshman year Fortran (yes, I’m dating myself) class after an in-class exam. I was called into the prof’s office and shown two pages of nearly identical code. Holy crap – how do you defend yourself? You were writing code on the fly, no documentation or notes. Fortunately the problem was an extension of a homework problem, and I re-used a rather idiosyncratic subroutine I’d developed on the homework, so the prof believed me, and the other guy confessed. To this day I can not stand plagiarists.

    But on-topic – dayum this prose is bad. This shite gets published nowadays?

  2. red says:

    John – sigh. Yes, it is. It’s all the rage! WHATEVES. hahaha It still shouldn’t be plagiarized!

    I just don’t understand it – I would be way too afraid of being caught.

  3. Jeff says:

    I guess this pretty much rules out any appearance on Oprah.

    I love the quote in the article that it was “unintentional” because she’s “a wonderful young woman.” Sort of the literary equivalent of “he was always such a quiet man.”

  4. red says:

    It seems to me that it would be easier to “unintentionally” plagiarize, say, a history book – where you do years of research and assimilation of other sources. That seems to happen quite a bit. Not excusable, again – but way more understandable (in my mind) than the shit this girl pulled.

    There is nothing “unintentional” about those examples. I think the girl was given too much too soon – massive book deal – etc. – and then freaked out when DUH she actually had to deliver a book. You know: WITH WORDS AND STUFF LIKE THAT.

    What I see in those examples is just blatant copying and adding a few extraneous words (which make the already-bad writing worse)

  5. M. in Boston says:

    Hello from an occasional reader. I just read about this in today’s Globe. She got a $500,000 advance, they reported. Wonderful. I hope she hasn’t spent it all yet.

    For years, I refused to write a single word of fiction because I knew I’d never measure up to my hero – Patrick O’Brian – so why bother? Then I look at the junk on the shelves at Borders, and read about this trendy Harvard frosh who publishers saw fit to throw the equivalent of a suburban single family house at.

    So now I’ve come around to Kipling’s view, which I paraphrase brutally: To refrain from writing is a misplaced kindness, given all the crap that’s already out there.

  6. red says:

    M. – I know what you mean! I love Patrick O’Brian too – a daunting example for any writer.

    I love this quote from Flannery O’Connor, and I couldn’t agree with it more:

    “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.”

    I’m glad this chick was revealed. Not to be all bitter or anything!! I’m just glad the jig is up. I hate cheaters.

    I wouldn’t DARE to do something like that – my fear of the resulting shame of being caught is way too great.

  7. Emily says:

    Ugh. I read the passages at the Globe and both books sound TERRIBLE. I mean, you’ve written blog posts about Tara Reid with better narrative. How do these people get published?

    Also, if you’re ripping someone else’s stuff instead of coming up with your own, you probably don’t really enjoy writing in the first place, so WHY ARE YOU DOING IT? This isn’t some kid desperate to turn in a college paper ripping one off the internet. This is a PAID writer. If you don’t like writing enough to create your own shit, don’t DO IT.

  8. red says:

    Very strange. Obviously she was applauded along the way – SOMEONE signed off on this book and SOMEONE gave her another book deal … based on this lame-ass copied book.

    Man, I so would not want to be in her shoes today.

  9. Patrick W says:

    I read about this girl in either the ProJo or the NYT. I was so jealous of her sweet $$$ advance and her publishers confidence. Wondered how they could justify it on only a small sample of her writing. I should have been more skeptical, you know, “too good to be true.” ps. Wish I could be there for your show next week.

  10. red says:

    Pat – It did turn out to be too good to be true!

    I hope you guys had a great vacation!! :)

  11. ak says:

    Funny, Red, I thought of that exact O’Connor quote as I was reading the books’ passages.

    I work in book publishing, and at every house I’ve worked at, we’ve had people blatantly plagiarize. Not a lot–most writers truly want to express themselves in their own style (even if a few of them really needn’t bother). Plagiarism seems to go hand-in-hand with either sloppiness or greediness.

    But it remains a mystery to me how the cheats think they can get away with it. It was easy enough to discover plagiarism *before* the Internet.

  12. Kelly says:

    Hey Sheila- I teach 6th grade Language Arts in an urban school. I just gave a writing prompt to my class that goes with an online writing contest. I figured I might get a good essay or two that I could send in and get some accolades for some kids that don’t get recognized much for academics.
    It was to write about Mother’s Day or your “motherly figure”. I went into detail about who your mother is and what qualifies as a motherly figure.
    I watched the girl who’s sister just got arrested and was taken out of school in handcuffs, the kid displaced by Katrina who lives with his aunt, the girl who’s sister got out of jail today, the three ADHD boys who were bouncing around and barely got the date on their paper- All seemed to be going about as well as could be expected.
    I did not notice a tough, pretty girl who was weeping over her writing journal. Her friend pointed it out and told me her mother was dead and could I give her a different prompt— “UHHH yeah, tell her to write about her favorite dream…..” I pulled that one out of the sky.
    I’m sitting in a darkened classroom with the AC cranking, decompressing.
    I think that all our lives, especially kids’ lives are epics filled with untold drama. Sometimes when I glimpse into a life, I just can’t believe the range and depth.
    Anyway- I have great compassion for your childhood friend ( and her teacher) and think the Harvard student should be riveted to a steel wall and have people shooting paint pellets at her. Let’s keep her there and we’ll call it art.

  13. JFH says:

    Three thoughts come to mind:

    1) How can a 4th Grade teacher NOT know that poem?! I recognized it in the first stanza and I haven’t read that book in over 30 years (and even it she didn’t recognize it, it still sounds very 19th century to me)… Besides that a poem like that these days would get you sent to the school psychologist, it couldn’t have been that different in the 70s. Again, 19th century children’s books were quite a bit more violent than the “sensitive” 60s/70s kids lit (which is why the Harry Potter series, IMHO, is so popular now)

    2) I was scared to DEATH about being caught as a plagerist from about the 6th grade on… Teachers would say, “We can tell if you’ve plagerized” (and this was before the days of the internet). As it turns out, most of them either thought that this idol threat was sufficient (in my case, it was) or thought too highly of their ability to detect plagerism (especially in the smarter students). My theory is, is that many realized after not getting caught once, then twice, then multiple more times, that plagerism is near impossible to catch. Actually, assuming you don’t use the most obvious sources (e.g. a very popular book) and without the use of a powerful search engine), it IS highly statistically probable that you will never get caught.

    3) (Yes this is getting very long with probably many typos and poor grammer, but too lazy to clean it up). The solution for this, is for publishing houses, teachers etc. to start using computer resources to control this problem. The publishing industry has no excuse; they have the Lexis/Nexis databases and others perform this research and SHOULD be sued with punitive damages until the problem is solved. Teachers are starting to realize that there are tools to identify plagerism (at least gleened from internet sources).

  14. red says:

    JFH – Sigh. Here’s the deal: she didn’t recognize it. Plenty of people wouldn’t. Great for you that you would, but obviously plenty of people wouldn’t. She was a great teacher, one of the best.

    Just have to say that in response to your first comment.

  15. red says:

    I can imagine how tempting it is now for students writing papers – with the internet and all. You just Google it up, and there it all is … Is every teacher going to Google every sentence in every term paper? Argh!

    I know that fear of God worked with me. (Or, in Rhode Island speak: “feara God.”)

    One of our high school english teachers told us that we would be expelled from college if we were caught plagiarizing. And … it was just TERRIFYING to contemplate.

    Not to mention the fact that the whole thing just felt wrong to me anyway. Copying someone else’s words???

    But still, like Emily said: This is not about a girl who plagiarized a term paper because she felt desperate and she was running out of time – this is a girl who supposedly loves writing, and has a ginormous BOOK DEAL. Like … what is the psychosis there??

    Like ak said above – It’s probably a mixture of greed and sloppiness. Nice book advance – a shitload of money … but she doesn’t have the writing chops to deliver.

    She caved. No sympathy for her.

    Lie in that plagiarist bed, girlie. You shoulda had the feara God put into YOU years ago.

  16. Nightfly says:

    Four posts and 170 comments later, I knew it was plagiarism.

  17. melissa says:

    I ran across an interesting (as in train wreck) plagarism incident a few years ago…

    High School play. Newspaper reviewer plagarized the review she wrote. (this truly pissed me off. I can’t even find words to describe how deeply this pissed me of) Was found out because the HS director was new that year and had done a bunch of internet reading about the play – and the review she had stolen was on the internet.

    Friend of mine’s dad was the recently retired HS director. He was irate. My friend and I spent a couple hours going through the writer’s past bylines on the paper’s online archives – she had been plagarizing for _years_ – had started out small, with descriptions of plays or movies from IMDB or such, and worked up to being lazy enough to plagarize a review.

    She was fired. We rejoiced.

  18. red says:

    Melissa – oh my GOD.

    A high school play?? I just do not GET IT. Why not just go see the damn play and write up a review??

    Sloth. Sheer and utter SLOTH!!

  19. Emily says:

    I remember I asked Norm Geras once what it was like, teaching university in the era of the internet when plagiarism was so easy. He said it was a HUGE problem, but that the tools for dealing with it were getting better. It was an interesting perspective to hear, from a college professor.

  20. Reminds me of Blair Hornstine – remember her? – who was uninvited to Harvard after it turned out she had plagiarized an article about Thanksgiving that she “wrote” for a local paper. She copied swaths of it from a speech that Pres. Clinton had made. And claimed that her mistake was in not citing her source, which as a wittle girl she didn’t realize she should do: “I’m not a journalist”. The concept that passing off somebody else’s thoughts as your own is fundamentally dishonest apparently just wasn’t there.

    I had a teen drama book when I was a teen that dealt with the idea of plagiarism in an interesting way. A girl was mad at her stepsister and wanted to get even. She knew that the sister had a paper due for English and was a procrastinator, so she typed from memory a paper that she had previously turned in to the same teacher, wadded it up, and threw it in the garbage. As she expected, the sister pulled it out and used it to write her own paper – but she did make substantial changes and express some original thoughts. Still, it was obviously copied, and the teacher gave them both zeroes. To the nonplagiarizing girl’s surprise, she drew most of their parents’ ire for entrapping her sister and taking advantage of her weakness to try to hurt her. Anyway, it was an interesting thought-experiment in morality and apparently made an impression on me.

  21. Dave J says:

    Oh God, Laura, Blair Hornstine? Didn’t she sue her high school to be named valedictorian? If I remember even HALF the shit she pulled, she was a Class A schmuck.

    “The publishing industry has no excuse; they have the Lexis/Nexis databases and others perform this research and SHOULD be sued with punitive damages until the problem is solved.”

    I agree with the sentiment, but sued by whom? Who really has standing? And what’s the quantifiable injury? It’s definitely gross negligence, but it’s not intentional, so I doubt even New York’s state AG would have such sweeping power as to be able to step in.

    Finally, major bias here I know, but what kind of teacher doesn’t recognize lines lifted from Lewis Carroll?!

  22. red says:

    Shut up about my favorite teacher, will ya? You are missing the goddamn point.

    Let’s see: she introduced me to poetry, reading, writing … She is a teacher all of her students remember to this day. Everyone flourished in her class because of her love of learning.

    And yeah, you are biased, Dave J. So because you’ve memorized every line of Lewis Carroll means those who haven’t are stupid or not good teachers?


  23. Dave J says:

    I really am very sorry, Sheila. I’m coming to realize that sometimes I get online too tired to think straight and then I probably shouldn’t write anything.

  24. red says:

    Retrospect is all very well and good – we all can feel superior to the teacher who didn’t recognize a quote that YOU would have recognized.

    If someone tried to pass off something from Anne of Green Gables as their own, I would know it immediately. Actually, there are 8 books in that series – and you pick any sentence out of those 8 books and try to tell me you wrote it?? I could point to chapter and probably even page to show that you were lying. That’s how well I know those books.

    Could you do that, Dave J? Probably not. I don’t imagine you have read all of the Anne of Green Gables books. Does that make me better than you or smarter? No. Of course not.

    Perhaps my teacher hadn’t memorized every word of Alice in Wonderland. Big whup. However, she might have memorized every word of all the CS Lewis books – because those were her favorites.

  25. Ken says:

    I don’t buy the idea (from the publisher flack’s statement) that plagiarism of this type can be “inadvertent.” It’s dangerous to extrapolate from personal experience, but I rush in (as usual) where angels fear to tread:

    Here’s the thing. I’ve written a fair number of songs, a few stories, and part of a novel. As a songwriter, I have had really good hooks come to me from what I thought was a clear blue sky, only to hear them on the radio or on a CD at some later date. Case in point: The best songwriter I ever knew–guy named Bill Fox, was in a Cleveland band called the Mice–once proclaimed one of my songs “overwhelming.” I was pretty proud of that, right up until I was listening to some music one day and realized that the “Overwhelming Song” owed a debt–and maybe a bit too much of a debt–to the Replacements’ “Alex Chilton” and maybe “Left of the Dial.” I doubt it rose to the level of copyright infringement, but I was still a little uncomfortable. In my defense, I can say only that I didn’t own Pleased to Meet Me at the time I wrote “Here Goes Nothing”, but I’m sure I heard “Alex Chilton” on college radio, and I did own the album with “Left of the Dial” (either Tim or Let It Be–I’m too lazy to go look). Anybody still following this, e-mail me for an mp3 and you can judge for yourself. ;-P I’ve lost more good songs that way…

    …which sounds like a punch line, but it brings me around (and sorry for the meander, but I’m going somewhere with it, I promise) to the main point: I’ve never, and I mean never, had that problem with a work of poetry or prose. I may file a hook in the deep unconscious, product of decades of listening to an insane variety and volume of music, but it doesn’t happen by accident when you’re writing prose. Not for me, anyway.

    Sheesh. Please pardon the dissertation. Also, the anecdote about your classmate is horribly sad. One can rightly deplore the act–but in the face of the desperation that produced it, what’s the point? (So to speak–that’s as close as I can come to putting what’s in my head into words.)

  26. red says:

    Ken – Yeah, there are lots of examples of song writers who truly did not mean to steal something else – right?? It’s almost like you pick up certain songs by osmosis – and haven’t even realized you’ve ever listened to them before!

  27. Ken says:

    Precisely–that and the fact that music–pop music anyway–has perhaps a more limited vocabulary than written English. There are only so many good hooks to go around.

    Happens at all levels of the game. Jon Bon Jovi, who generally comes across as a pretty level-headed and personable guy, if a trifle insecure about his place in musical history, once threatened (did he follow through? I dunno) to sue Belinda Carlisle over “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” (not being well-versed in Bon Joviana, I couldn’t tell you which song it supposedly copped). But pull out his later single “I’ll Be There for You” and listen to it, particularly, the first line of the verse, and then pull out the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” and compare the first line of the verse (the melody and the arrangement) to “I’ll Be There for You.”

  28. ricki says:

    “Is every teacher going to Google every sentence in every term paper?”

    Usually it’s not necessary. It’s sufficient to Google the sentences that sound “strange,” that use terminology you know you didn’t cover in class…

    I do this regularly with my (college level) papers. At least the ones where the assignments are open ended enough where someone COULD conceivably plagiarize. (Part of the trick is in making assignments that are targeted enough that it’s unlikely the student could find something pre-written online).

    Also, I give enough essay questions on tests to kind of know a student’s “voice” by the middle of the semester, and if something sounds hinky in a paper…well, I look it up.

    I don’t go after plagiarism so much because I’m fearful of someone getting a giant advance, or getting lionized as this big genius, when they’re actually plagiarizing – I guess I tend to figure that in those situations, karma will sort it out. And karma can be a mean bitch. But it annoys me to find students plagiarizing – regardless of what people may believe, many (most?) professors do not make assignments as busy-work. We don’t like grading that much.

    But I have found a number of papers – some of which were copied wholesale from DNR (department of natural resources) or FWS (fish and wildlife service; I’m in the conservation field) websites.

    It’s like: you thought I wouldn’t be familiar with THOSE?

    When I confront the students about it, the responses are very interesting. I’ve not yet had someone get angry with me – but I’ve been told to expect that, that some students will come back and somehow accuse the prof of malfeasance. Most of the time they’re kind of embarrassed, they really thought they could get away with it. Some of them seem to only be regretful that they got caught, not that they did something wrong (that could have got them fired from a job) in the first place.

    I don’t give THAT many writing assignments in my class (generally, two per semester, and they’re not that long – not over 6 pages), and the students are given at least a month to complete them. It frustrates me because the reason I give the assignments is to give them practice in writing the sort of reports and communications they will need to do out in the workforce. (It also frustrates me that some of the assigments that the students have a month or more to do come in smacking of being written in fifteen minutes of panic the night before they were due, but that’s another topic).

    It also makes me angry – why should I have to spend my time reading and grading something that’s not original? (And it seems that a lot of the time they find the crap websites to copy from).

    Another story: when I was in grad school, one of my officemates had a wife who taught at the local public high school. One evening when we were working in the lab, she was in there, grading her papers. All of a sudden she held one up to the light, then she sort of cackled and started scraping at the paper. “Look!” she said, “Look at this! This kid printed his paper DIRECTLY from Microsoft Encarta and just used whiteout to cover all of the “hotlinks” – he seriously thought I wouldn’t be suspicious of a paper with white-out on it every few sentences.”

    She turned it in to her principal – who called the kid’s parents – who then took the computer out of his bedroom and re-installed it in the living room, where they could WATCH him doing his homework.

    I don’t know – some people say I care waaaaaay too much about plagiarism. But then again, if there are people getting big book advances for basically plagiarized material….maybe other people aren’t caring enough about out.

  29. red says:

    Man, ricki – that is very disheartening. It’s like … they don’t get why it is wrong, and not just wrong – but also not serving them in any way! Why just copy? WHY??

    I’m with you – I don’t get why some people think this is NOT a big deal. I did a bit of scrolling thru blogs yesterday to see what people are saying and a lot of them are saying, “Innocent until proven guilty!! Let us not judge her yet!” which I think is a ridiculous argument. I’m not on the jury. I am not bound by the “innocent until proven guilty” thing. I am allowed to judge. I read the excerpts, I think she copied, I say so. Also, a lot of those blogs admittedly were written by Indians – either in India or in America – and so they were having a knee-jerk response of support for “one of their own”. Which is another ridiculous argument in my opinion.

    If she messed up (and it looks like she did) it means NOTHING about India or people from India, or what have you. She’s an individual. She messed up. That’s that!

  30. M. in Boston says:

    Well, it’s case closed for any doubters rising to the girl’s defense – she admitted it and apologized in today’s Globe. She said she read the McCafferty books, loved them, and must have “internalized” them “unconsciously”.

    But have no fear, in addition to her apology, she says she will have her publishers revise the plagiarized sections of her book for “future printings”. So that’s all right then!

    One last thing before I move on from this very irritating episode – she not only got the deal and the advance, but she also was referred to a “book packager”, to *help her work on the plot*. I never knew that fiction writing has become so … cynically prefab.

    But it’s just a case of life imitating art. There was a wonderful story by Roald Dahl, from The Umbrella Man and Other Stories, called “The Great Automatic Grammatizator”. In it, a publishing employee creates a device that will write any book, in any genre, and even imitate the voice of any existing or dead author. He hatches a scheme with his boss to buy off any competing real author, giving them money to stop writing so he can slap their names onto the books he produces mechanically, and profit.

    Dahl ends the story, writing as someone trying to resist the lure of easy cash for indolence: “Give us strength, O Lord, to let our children starve.”

  31. ricki says:

    About the “one of their own” situation:

    I think if I were a member of a “minority” group in this country, and someone that I considered to be a part of my group messed up big time like this, I’d be even angrier at them – like “you tarnished the image of us for everyone!”

    (Actually – I just realized, I do get angry out of all proportion when I hear about a scientist who fabricates data or who “cheats” in research – I guess that’s my “minority group.”)

    Unfortunately, cheating does seem to be endemic in the schools now; lots of people justify it by saying “I’ll do it for now to get by but when I get out into my career, I’ll stop.” I’ve used the argument that the assignments students do now are practice for their careers but there are some people who simply will not believe it. Nor will they believe that they are learning nothing by plagiairizing.

  32. Emily says:

    The publisher has said they are going to change the passages in question and Viswanathan has said she’s “deeply sorry” and that it was “unintentional” because she “internalized” the original author’s work too deeply. I don’t really buy that.

  33. red says:

    I don’t really buy it either. If you read all the stuff about how the “packager” was really behind this deal – and the packager was the one who helped her come up with the concept and the story (Ew!!!!) – Seems like she just couldn’t deliver the goods, and so she just hijacked someone else’s text out of desperation.

    I mean, I’ve “internalized” plenty of great works of literature – doesn’t mean I’m gonna pass them off as my own!

  34. Emily says:

    That’s exactly why I don’t buy it. I’ve read tons of books that I really *felt* deeply, but there’s not a chance that I would subconsciously repeat EXTENDED PASSAGES without recognizing what I was doing. Internalized my ass. The only this girl has “internalized” is the shit that she’s full of. I’d almost have slight respect for the girl if she just came out and admitted what she did and apologized instead of making up flimsy excuses about it being accidental.

  35. Internalize THIS

    Sheila wrote a great post yesterday about the Kaavya Viswanathan alleged plagiarism broo-fa-la-la-la, where the young author appears to have lifted several passages for her first book from another author. Today, the news came that Viswanathan has annou…

  36. Nightfly says:

    Agreed. And especially since James Frey and company, you’d think that you’d be doubly on guard, just in case… I’d like to say that, being very young, she has time to realize her fault and go on to have a good career, except that the non-apology shows an alarming lack of the necessary character.

    But all this about the “book packager” stuff and the “internalized” crapola – it’s more damaging than just coming clean. Essentially the author is admitting that she wasn’t even a good enough writer to plagiarize something on her own!

  37. red says:

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

    I wrote that.

  38. red says:

    DOH. Guess I just unintentionally internalized it. My bad. Sorry.

  39. Emily says:

    Wait until you get a load of my new book. The first chapter starts out “It was a dark and stormy night.”

    Gripping, eh?

  40. red says:

    Wow. Really really good work. What happens next? Is it, like, the fight to catch up with a huge white whale? Or … is it the story of a young woman who has a baby out of wedlock in a small colonial town? Or maybe the story of a troubled kid who gets kicked out of his boarding school and then spends an entire weekend by himself in New York having a nervous breakdown?

    Those are all plots that I think you should look into.

    You know. Cause they’re so original.

  41. Emily says:

    I was thinking along the lines of having a cruel alien race take over the earth to mine it for ores after enslaving humans, who will eventually triumph over their captors in a bold revolution. I think it might even make a great movie. What do you think? It would be cool. The aliens could be like rastafarian Klingons on their way to a KISS costume party.

  42. red says:

    Oh wow. Really cool!! Have one of the dudes download Declaration of Independence into his brain at one point. I would love to read about that. Really good idea.

  43. Emily says:

    And…he could like, teach all the other humans geometry and shit! I’m getting excited just thinking about it. I can’t wait to get started!

  44. red says:

    Emily –

    But can you type at the amazing light-warp speed of 94 wpm?????

  45. Emily says:

    You know only one man who has ever lived could do that.

  46. Ken says:

    In a hole in the ground there lived something that looked like a hobbit, but wasn’t.

    (clears shelf space for Peabody Award)

  47. red says:

    Emily I just popped a niacin. To make up for my error in assuming anyone else could EVER type that goldurn fast!!!

  48. Emily says:

    Not good enough. Methinks you’re due for the full RPF.

  49. Nightfly says:

    You guys do what you want. I’m doing a TV show where I make fun of all of you in a darkened theater with two homemade sidekicks.

  50. red says:

    Hey!!! Sounds like it could be a hit show! Great idea!

  51. macon says:

    When I was in high school, my friend was bemoaning the fact she flunked a book report. She showed it to me. It was taken directly from the jacket cover. She did not change a single word. I knew because I’d read the book. What was I supposed to say?

    If only my friend had had the wonderful excuse that she had “internalized” the author’s words, she would have gotten a chance to rewrite her report.

    I wonder if this Kaavya girl just was never taught about plagiarism or chose not to listen. The latter I believe. Nobody gets to college without at least one lecture on plagiarism. I mean a general one to the whole class.

    I know this is crude but sometimes I wonder if there was something sexual going on between this girl and her various handlers. They didn’t like her first proposal after all “too dark.” Considering how many proposals the average agent gets, why not just send this girl a traditional rejection slip like the rest of us poor saps? Very odd.

  52. liam says:

    Regarding Ken’s post, I too have often found that I have written what I think is some brilliant riff or chord progression, only to discover later that it had been written many years ago. Reminds me of the jokers in some forgotten band who tried to sue Green Day for ‘ripping off’ ‘their bassline’ in the song “Warning” – only to have everyone point out that Green Day had lifted it wholesale from the Kink’s “Picture Book.”

    Almost a year with without posting but still can get a Kinks reference in.