I usually don’t do this sort of thing but I have to say something about KaavyaViswanathan and her alleged photographic memory that has been making the news.
Let’s take a ride in the way back machine to 1997 when Nora Roberts sued fellow author, Janet Dailey for copyright infringement. Dailey allegedly plagiarized 13 of Nora’s books. By the way, Dailey has published novels since then and she claimed that severe emotional distress was the cause of her eh, faux pas. Articles about the scandal can be read here and here.
Anyway, it seemed that the only people who took the issue seriously were Nora and romance writers. One news writer referred to the sordid affair as a mere bodice-ripping cat fight and a reader claimed that one romance novel was no different than the other.
Fast forward to “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” and its similarities to Megan McCafferty’s novel (and didja hear that there are claims that Viswanathan “may have internalized” passages from Sophie Kinsella’s “Can Your Keep A Secret? The AP story is here). Now it seems that everyone understands that plagiarism isn’t just a crime against the writer, it’s also defrauding the reader. Less than a week after the first claims of plagiarism were made, Viswanathan’s book was pulled from book shelves by her publisher and her movie deal has been reportedly nixed.
As an author who has put my heart and soul into every page of my books, I am so happy that publishers, readers, my fellow writers and the media are taking plagiarism seriously. And I believe we have Oprah and James Frey to thank for the more responsible handling of the Viswanathan scandal by her publisher, Little, Brown and Co. When Oprah made Frey take responsibility for his not-so-honest memoir (and humiliated his cell-phone packing publisher on national TV), it has made us stop and think about the importance of the written word. There is an unspoken agreement between author and reader that the book, fictional or non-fictional, are expected to come from a place of truth and originality … not his or her photographic memory.
UPDATE: This just in from today’s PW Daily
No Encore for ‘Opal’
By Rachel Deahl
Readers who have a copy of Kaavya Viswanathan’s How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life may want to hold on to it, as the book is now a collector’s item. In a statement issued from Little, Brown, the publisher finally said that it will not be releasing a revised edition of the book. And Viswanathan’s second book in that two-title deal she signed with LB is dead too. The brief announcement came this afternoon from LB’s senior v-p and publisher, Michael Pietsch.
While LB would not comment on what this means for the highly publicized $500,000 advance the young author received, agent Robert Gottlieb told PW that it’s certainly possible the imprint could request that the money be returned. Explaining that every author signs a contract stipulating that the work they’re submitting is wholly their own, Gottlieb said in cases of plagiarism an author is always breaking this legal agreement. “Technically the author is in breach of her contract,” Gottlieb said, referring to Viswanathan’s plagiarism. “If the publisher decided that they wanted to demand the advance back, they could.”
Though Little, Brown could sue Viswanathan—for losses it has incurred in publicizing, printing and distributing the book—Gottlieb believes that this is unlikely. “I’ve always recommended to publishers that they avoid suing authors, because it just doesn’t look good,” he said. He then added: “We all do live in a community.” That we do, and it seems that Kaavya Viswanathan has officially been kicked out.