At the age of seventeen most people with the calling are just realizing that they want to be writers. At the very least, they are just becoming aware that it is an option. However, for Kaayva Viswanathan things were fast tracked big time. By seventeen she had already got a six-figure publishing deal covering her current manuscript and the next one she would write and, to ice the cake, Dreamworks SKG, the movie company owned by Jeffery Katzenberg, David Geffen and Steven Spielberg, had already contacted her over a possible movie adaptation of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. She was nineteen, is nineteen, when the book was finally published.
And that is when the shit hit the fan.
Kaayva is a Harvard student. And Harvard has journalists in it. And they are not cack. Kaayva’s parade was first drizzled upon when someone noticed strong similarities between How Opal and a series of other books in the same girl power genre by a more experienced author, Megan Mcafferty, writer of Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. And this spoiler went and notified Mcafferty.
The drizzle began to stir into a downpour when Mcafferty’s people contacted Kaayva’s people over the alleged plagiarism. Kaayva demurely denied any conscious plagiarism but conceded that, having been a voracious fan of Mcafferty’s work in her nonage, she may have “internalized” aspects of sloppy firsts etc, which aspects came out, totally unwittingly on Kaayva’s part, in her own novel. She apologized to mcafferty.
Enter those Harvard student journalists. The staff of The Harvard Crimson sat up all night transcribing portions of both books and placing them side by side for publication so that we could all see and muse to ourselves, “Hmmm. Internalise. That must be the new slang term for boldfaced theft.”
Take a look at their list…
In the end her publishers, who had earlier promised to revise the book for the next print run and have the questionable bits rewritten, ended up pulling the book from the shelves. Now, I like few things better than to allow myself to get excited over a great new author (witness my sweaty-palmed gushing over Doreen Baingana’s book below) but I found myself giggling at this story. You see, I have a list, the food chain of literature. Numbers one to five are art, numbers six downward are crap.
1. Poetry written before 1960 when poetry stopped being a major literary artform
4. Short stories
5. The pop versions of the above, including movie scripts
6. This is the point where the crap comes in: The crap versions of the above
8. Adverstising for Bamwe House Of Ceramics
9. Poetry written after 1960
10. emails and sms which are deliberately misspelled so you get a headache reading them
It is just funny to see the scum at the bottom of the heap clawing amongst itself.