By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Barry Bonds of chick lit

That’s what Samuel Freedman of the New York Times calls Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard sophomore now in the midst of a plagiarism-fueled meltdown over her (or should that be “her”?) novel, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.”

Freedman’s not so much commenting on Viswanathan’s sticky-fingered writing style, but, rather, the fact that she paid some $10,000 to $30,000 to a consulting outfit in order to help her get into Harvard — the equivalent, he says, of the steroids that Bonds claims he didn’t take in order to boost his home-run output.

Still, given that Viswanathan is now being accused of having lifted more than 40 passages from Megan McCafferty’s first two novels (Harvard Crimson coverage here; Boston Globe coverage here; Boston Herald coverage here), it would seem that Barry Bonds’ single-season home-run record of 73 is within her grasp.

Globe columnist Alex Beam, who dubs Viswanathan the “Queen of Schadenfreude,” predicts that the agency that helped her “conceptualize” the novel is going to wind up being accused as the guilty party. But if Beam is right, wouldn’t that mean that Viswanathan didn’t write any of “Opal Mehta”?

McCafferty herself is reported to be devastated by all of this, but she comes off as rather jolly on her blog. I would think she would be.

Meanwhile, the Weekly Dig has some fun today with my deathless prose. I admit to being dense enough not to have gotten it until I’d read a couple of paragraphs.


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16 Comments

  1. John Galt

    Well, who doesn’t think that our nation would be 1000% better if folks call liars, frauds, and cheats what they truly are?

  2. Anonymous

    Viswanathan is a victim and the .5 million was well worth her outstanding prose. I fail to see how anyone, with any grasp of the facts can see it any other way. I am currently fleshing out a fiction concept outline to be sold on Craigs List to some hardworking freshman involving a revenge based whaling expedition sailing up stream in Africa searching for King Othello. Along the way, they encounter a huge ape and then …

  3. neil

    I saw Beam’s “Queen of Schadenfreude” remark and must say I didn’t get it. What does it mean? I thought schadenfreude meant taking pleasure in the misery of others. Is Viswanathan taking such pleasure? Is the public taking particular pleasure in her misery? I don’t see that to the extent that it deserves “queen”.I think V is a tool. A willing tool perhaps, but a tool nevertheless. As for paying $$$ to get into Harvard–sounds like the sin of having too-ambitious and status-conscious parents.An earlier comment mentioned that the devil drives a hard bargain. I like that–I think I’ll use it!

  4. Anonymous

    Freedman flatters her. It’s more like, *the minor leaguer whom you’ve maybe heard of once and who will probably never make it to the majors who was just caught using steroids* of Chick Lit.

  5. Anonymous

    A couple of nagging questions I just keep asking myself:- Why do these dupped publishers still put on a brave face to “stand by” these crooks? Why not hold back on those brazen endorsments until things are cleared either way? Little Brown is very faithful now, just like James Frey was initially very defensive and later turned on him after public heat intensified.It smacks ot cowardice. Compounded.- Why are these books still sold. It would be SHAMEFUL if she profited from this fraud. Absolutely unfair. They either should stop such sales when plagiarism comes to light or even better, give the proceeds to the victimized author. There should be a code of honor, with enforceable steps in the publishing industry to discourage this charade and make SURE there is no profiting off other’s backs WITHOUT lengthy litigation.- Is she still going to hold on to the 500k or give it back for breaching her publishing contract guarantee clause? Is she still forced to give Little, Brown a second book, as her contract stipulates??- How long before this idiot is thrown out of Harvard. The Crimson notes there was such an expulsion back in 2003 and I would be livid if it didn’t happen. I hope there won’t be any PC crap here. Harvard do the right thing.This is the most damning part for the more than 45-lift case against this braindead chick:(From the Crimson)”In her statement on Monday, Viswanathan said, “When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, ‘Sloppy Firsts’ and ‘Second Helpings,’ which spoke to me in a way few other books did.” But when The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. asked Viswanathan about the inspiration for her book last week—before the similar passages were reported—she responded, “Nothing I read gave me the inspiration.” “Too little too late, whatever your name is…N.

  6. Anonymous

    In a totally, absolutely, 100% unrelated development, I just got a $90,000 advance for “Little Peeple”, my look at the challenges facing marshmallow Easter candy.

  7. D. Sands

    Ah, the Weekly Dig stuff, classic.

  8. Anonymous

    N., I don’t know anything, so maybe those more knowledgeable will correct me. But I’m guessing that at the very least, the settlement that will be reached with McCafferty will involve all profits from the book going to her, as well as a cash settlement from Viswanathan in the neighborhood of, oh, say, 500K.

  9. neil

    Who needs Harvard. She can have a new career as a hot plagiatrix. Submissive writers can pay her to humiliate them by copying their work and making money off it while they remain penniless.Internalize me, Mistress V, internalize me!Shut up and write, wretch!Yes, Mistress V!

  10. Don

    No, seriously, who gives half a mil to a l9-year-old to publish a book. And what kind of editors do they have? Zzzzz…

  11. Anonymous

    At least she isn’t the Bronson Arroyo of chick lit, cuz I have the feeling that would to a whole new series of postings for Dan. (By the way, Bronson just won to go 4-0)

  12. Anonymous

    4:26 – Please give us all a break! No mentions of BA until he starts the All Star game.And, wait until you get a load of Wily Mo shagging flies in center.

  13. Anonymous

    While we are talking about baseball, two points:- While it turns out we have serious doubts about Wells and Clement in light of the Arroyo trade, we neglect to talk about the OTHER trade that screwed up the third pitcher in the rotation, Wakefield: Why oh why did they let go of Dougie. What a stupid move!!! When are we going to hold Sox brass to account for these blunders as much as we like to hoist them up for the fewer moves that actually pan out.- Whoever produces Nesn Sox games either needs a transfer or a few smacks. So I am sitting there watching a close game in the middle of the eighth inning and Youk is on first. All of a sudden, what does this genius decide to do? Break to Nu Jeuy’zee Tina Cervasio and then to an earlier Tito interview clip?? Huhhhh??? Meanwhile, I am hearing Trup on the radio saying that Youk reach second on a bobble.WHAT THE HECK ARE THEY DOING???Why are they cutting into the game to give us these fluff side reports. The heck with them. I am sitting through a long game that is slo-mo but all of a sudden things happen in a flash and I don’t need no stinking interviews. She is a nice gal, but please keep her off camera, give her some drink and have her stand by until the damn game is over. The Eighth inning?!?!?! Can’t they wait???? WHat the heck is so pressing??? For a moment I thought it was Fox producing the game. I hope Red Sox brass pay more attention to that aspect, especially that ALL games now are on their territory.N.

  14. Anonymous

    N. – Couldn’t agree more. Always, always watch the game with the sound down and Joe and Jerry on the radio – the best in the business.Dan – Please, don’t resist the urge to update on Arroyo. C’mon, 8 innings, one hit, 4-0, ERA well below Mike’s projections.

  15. Anonymous

    First of all, wake up everyone. She didn’t get the 500,000 dollars yet. That was for two books and she only delivered one. So she got 250,000, in thirds, like 80,000 each time, one on signing contract, one on delivering the mss. and one on publication day but delayed a year. So all she really got so far is 160,000, minus her agents 20% deduction, 100,000, so all she got so far is 60,000.PLUS, she didn’t plagiarize, the Alloy 17 people and her editors did the copyjob (CJ). She was an unwitting tool in this charade. God bless her.And you want to really know what this is all about, peeple? read all the commentaries and opeds in the Indian media on the Indian subcontinent, google and you will see how the Indian media is taking up this story.It has NOTHING to do with Harvard. Harvard is an illusion anyways.

  16. Anonymous

    I can’t believe how ludicrous is this Anon 12:04Are you smoking something or are you a relative of hers or do you have a similar knd of name like hers, so you you are sticking for your kind?Patently dishonest…”Oh, it wasn’t her, she just allowed others to write the book for her while she took credit and used it to shamelessly promote herslef and seek a Harvard seat because of it. THEy are the frauds not her.”Well, that itself is a fraudulent act, so you’re robbing paul to pay peter, you dummy.This is defensless and you are pathetic.N.

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