Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Was It Really Plagiarism?

It all begins simply enough. A girl writes a story. She shows that story to a few other people who think it is good and give her a book deal. The story is so good, in fact, that it also gets a movie deal. The future looks bright for this girl. Then, just as quickly as it came, it all falls apart.

This is exactly what happened to young Miss Kaavya Viswanathan, a 19 year old Harvard student from New Jersey. The book, 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life', which she wrote when she was 17, came out in March and quickly gained the widespread attention of the literary world.

Then came the allegations of plagiarism. To be fair, no one is saying that her story isn’t original, the problem lies in a few of her passages that seem to be “borrowed” from other authors. The New York Times got in on the act and published some of the passages in question after saying it was alerted by one of its many readers. After that, the dogs smelt blood and a flood of negative articles hit the internet and news stands all over the world.

Her defense was it was unintentional. She had previously read the works of these other authors and the words stuck with her. When she was writing her own story, she claimed she had subliminally used a few descriptions she had read before without knowing it.

As much of an excuse as it is, it still holds some legitimacy. A great writer once said “About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment. “ While personally I think that is a load of bullshit, I do think it possibly holds some type of philosophical merit.

Either way, this girl is just a scapegoat. At the very most she is guilty of lazy writing. She wrote an original (if chick-lit can be called original) story from her own mind. Her first mistake was being young and her second was becoming popular too quickly. She was hanging by a thin rope over a pool of sharks with people shooting darts at her. Only those writers with a strong rope should attempt such a thing. Hers had holes in it from the beginning.

Who knows, maybe she deserved it. God help us if we ever actually encouraged any young people in this country to do anything productive with their lives.


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