There is some justice in the literary world. Megan McCafferty, whose novels provided such rich, er, source material for Harvard typist Kaavya Viswanathan, is at #7 on the Wall Street Journal’s hardcover bestseller list for her latest novel, “Charmed Thirds.” Good for McCafferty, who’s got enough class that she doesn’t even mention Viswanathan on her blog.
The Boston Globe has played Viswanathan’s copycat ways on page one, above the fold, each of the past two days. (Yesterday’s story is here; today’s is here.) But the Harvard Crimson, which broke the story on Sunday, makes clear in a way the Globe doesn’t that Viswanathan’s excuse — that she must have unconsciously recycled passages from a novel she loved when writing “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” — has failed to impress McCafferty’s publisher.
Paras D. Bhayani and David Zhou, writing for the Crimson, report:
… Random House, which published McCafferty’s novels, is confident that “literal copying” occurred in Viswanathan’s book, according to a confidential letter from the publishing giant to Little, Brown that was obtained by The Crimson.
“We are continuing to investigate this matter, but, given the alarming similarities in the language, structure and characters already found in these works, we are certain that some literal copying actually occurred here,” read the letter, which is dated April 22 and was signed by Random House lawyer Min Jung Lee. “As such, we would appreciate your prompt and serious attention to this matter.”
Indeed, if you take a look at the Crimson’s side-by-side comparisons, you’ll find it hard to rule out the possibility — the likelihood? — that Viswanathan propped McCafferty’s “Sloppy Firsts” open in her lap and started typing, making just a few changes in an inept attempt to cover her tracks.
It’s hard to muster much sympathy for Viswanathan, who got a $500,000 contract to put her imprimatur on a novel that others “conceptualized” for her, and that she then couldn’t apparently bother to write entirely on her own.
But I’ll give her this much. In a more sane world, she never would have gotten the contract and the publicity that put her in the public spotlight in the first place. She would have plagiarized at Harvard, flunked a class, maybe even been forced to transfer to another college. And she would have learned an important lesson — quietly. Instead, she’s dealt herself a devastating blow from which it will be hard to recover.