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CopyKaavya: Plagiarism, Part Two (and Three, and Four…)

Thought this story was over? Believe me, so did we, but the New York Times certainly didn’t. In the words of Motoko Rich & Dinitia Smith, “Fresh passages in the novel appear to be copied from a second author.” That would be Sophie Kinsella, specifically CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? And though the plots are very different, some of the passages are, well, strikingly similar:

In one scene in Ms. Kinsella’s book, which was published by Dial Press, the main character, Emma, comes upon two of her friends “in a full-scale argument about animal rights,” and one says, “The mink like being made into coats.”

In Ms. Viswanathan’s book, Opal, the heroine, encounters two girls having “a full-fledged debate over animal rights.”

“The foxes want to be made into scarves,” one of them says.

The passages are clustered in the final third of OPAL MEHTA and don’t seem to be quite as extensive as they were from Megan McCafferty’s books.

Think that’s it? Oh no, says the Harvard Crimson, as they find similarities between OPAL MEHTA and Meg Cabot’s THE PRINCESS DIARIES, as well as Salman Rushdie’s HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES. Ironically, Rushdie had already come out against Kaavya, calling her “a victim of her own ambition,” but wonder what he’ll say when news of this particular plagiarism finally hits him?

Meanwhile, people at her former high school, the Bergen County Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology, are more about sympathy than schadenfreude. “When I’m writing, what I read stays in my mind,” 17-year-old Jennie Choi said in Viswanathan’s defense. “I think it’s kind of sad what is happening to her.”

And the Crimson, who broke the plagiarism story in the first place, editorializes on its role in reporting original investigative pieces when some people have criticized them for such. “These people see the role of newspapers as reporting events that have already happened or are a matter of public record,” said Crimson president William C. Marra. “Newspapers, they argue, are only furthering their own agenda when they drive news coverage by reporting previously unreported facts. I would argue, however, that investigating and uncovering news is exactly what newspapers ought to do, and that reporting what is already out in the open comes second to that. Our best stories are those that report facts and events that people in power do not want you to know about.”

Finally, the Harvard Independent is still finding fresh angles, taking a closer look at Katherine Cohen and IvyWise, and ending with this rather interesting quote from a 2004 Forbes piece on her: “Harvard-bound Kaavya Viswanathan, from Franklin Lakes, N.J., signed on with IvyWise, a counseling firm with offices in New York and Beverly Hills, during her junior year. ‘They take all the raw material and help you put it together in the way that an admissions officer is going to be most impressed by,’ she says.” Yup, sounds like packaging to us…

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