Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Who uses it: Publishers
What it means: To destroy an entire print run of a book, so that no one else can read it or buy it.
How you can use it: If you're looking for a copy of Kaavya Viswanathan's novel.

The scandal over How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life was a topic of extensive discussion at the Festival of Books this past weekend. I feel very bad for the young woman, who sounds as if she got swept up in her parents' fervent ambition, her college counselor's irrational exuberance, and her publisher's hype machine. She's 19, for Pete's sake. If you had the moral courage at 19 to tell someone who was offering you half a million dollars, "I can't do this," or "I didn't really write this," you're a better person than most.

I wonder, too, whether anyone would have noticed the extensive borrowings in Opal Mehta if the book hadn't been so wildly promoted. I don't read much teen fiction or much "chick lit," but I've read enough to recognize the conventions of the genre. Within the crime fiction genre, I remember one year when I read three novels in a row that ended with the shocking revelation of long-hidden child sexual abuse that led to murder decades later.

Back in Washington tonight, at the end of a day that started at 3:30 a.m. Even waking at that hour, I barely caught my 6:00 a.m. plane -- LAX is the most inconvenient airport in the United States, and that's saying something. The rental car places are miles away, the check-in process is scattered and unwieldy, and the security checkpoints take way longer than they should.

So now I'm going to work through the 30-some e-mails waiting for me, and then I plan to sleep for about 12 hours. Dizzy and I are back at Megan's tonight, after Dizzy spent a happy weekend with Joseph and his two Boston terriers. Thanks to everyone for all the hospitality during this long, long trip; if it weren't for the kindness of my friends, I'd have to stay home.


Anonymous said...

Plagiarism comes awfuly close to the unpardonable sin. I mean, to coin a phrase,now is the winter of our discontent and to kill a mockingbird, you just shouldn't quote without quoting. There's no way that the 19-year-old "author" didn't know what she was doing. She deserrves all the scorn folks can heap on her.


AnswerGirl said...

I'm not condoning plagiarism -- and the more we learn about this, the more it seems that this was a systematic reprocessing of many other people's work (see www.galleycat.com) -- but I'm not at all sure that Ms. Viswanathan is the only person to blame here.