Maddenation

How Kaavya Got Published

I thought How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life was a bad title, but then I heard the title of the book that was allegedly plagiarized to create this great work of literature, Sloppy Firsts. If you haven’t already gotten your fill of news about this latest piece of evidence that western culture is collapsing, you can read about it here.

In a nutshell, a teenaged girl, currently a Harvard sophomore (majoring in hype management?), got a half-million dollar book deal for producing a “coming-of-age” novel that contains remarkable similarities to another book by Megan McCafferty. 100,000 copies have already been printed and DreamWorks has already acquired film rights. The author has apologized for accidentally/unconsciously using wording similar to McCafferty books she had previously read.

I daresay, I’m not in the target audience for this book, and nobody’s paying me to research it, but it seems to me this news story has been plagiarized from other similar stories I’ve heard recently.

In fact, there’s a new term for it: “internalization.” (Ask Dan about how to pronounce it.) You teachers out there might want to take notice. Don’t you expect your students to internalize the knowledge you teach in your course? And posers everywhere quote great thinkers at cocktail parties all the time. Yet we don’t make a donation to the Franklin Museum every time we say, “A stitch in time saves nine,” do we? And what about Shakespeare? Ay, there’s the rub. Is it nobler in the mind for this Harvard sophomore to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against this sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? I guess you might say that for her, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

I think she should take the money and run…for office. Her name recognition will never be so high again, and she’s already demonstrated that she has the right stuff.

DadObservations04/28/06 1 comments

Comments

Patrick • 05/01/06 12:41 AM:

Fascinating. Whereas I can believe that George Harrison simply “internalized” the simple music of “He’s So Fine” for his (much better, and more spiritual, too!) “My Sweet Lord,” I have a very hard time believing that this girl did so. Here is the original article from the Harvard Crimson. It links to this page that lists many similar passages.

But given that woman who never forgets anything, and a story I read a while back about how a twelve-year-old Helen Keller thought she had written a story, but it was very plagiarized from another story…

The earliest dust-up came in 1892. Helen had sent a story she said she’d written, ”The Frost King,” to one of her many boosters, Michael Anagnos of the Perkins Institution in Boston. The institution’s alumni magazine published the little tale, idiotically calling it ”without parallel in the history of literature.” ”The Frost King” turned out to bear a strong resemblance to ”The Frost Fairies,” by Margaret T. Canby, which had probably been read to Keller (using finger spelling) by Annie Sullivan. When word of the plagiarism got out, the newspapers jumped on it. Anagnos responded by assembling a nine-member tribunal of Perkins officials, who cross-questioned the child mercilessly. They acquitted her by a single vote, Anagnos’s. Then he turned on both Keller and Sullivan, declaring, ”Helen Keller is a living lie.” Anagnos’s boosting stopped; Keller, who would publish 13 books, remained paranoid about plagiarism ever after (source Walter Kendrick, NY Times, 8/20/98).

…I hold a small belief that maybe this girl has a brain that’s different from mine, and maybe she did simply “internalize” the McCafferty’s words as well as her ideas…

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