The recent plagiarism scandal surrounding Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan’s book is yet another symptom of the “me, me, me” mentality that too many young people have adopted as religion.
Viswanathan has been under fire since the Harvard Crimson newspaper reported similarities between her book, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” (Little, Brown) and Megan McCafferty’s “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings” (Crown Publishing).
All three novels are aimed at young adults.
Viswanathan appeared on the “Today” show and stated that the similarities were unintentional, saying “When I was writing, I genuinely believed each word was my own.”
Crown publisher Steve Ross said in a statement that the apology was “troubling and disingenuous.”
That is an understatement.
You see, apparently it wasn’t good enough that Viswanathan received a reported $500,000 advance for two books from her publisher, and a movie deal with Dreamworks for her tome. It’s not enough that she attends Harvard, one of this country’s most prestigious universities. It wasn’t enough for her to be considered by many as some kind of literary prodigy.
What now? Will the 19-year-old say that the pressure to live up to such early success caused her to plagiarize another author? Probably. She has already shifted blame to her subconscious, saying on “Today” that when she read McCafferty’s books in high school, they “spoke to me in a way that few others had.”
Never mind that she told the Newark Star Ledger in a recent interview that “nothing I read gave me the inspiration.”
I guess it’s McCafferty’s own fault that her novels were plagiarized. After all, if her words hadn’t spoken to Viswanathan so profoundly, she might not have been ripped off.
But this is just another example of how people these days are only concerned about looking good, instead of being good.
It looked good for Ashlee Simpson to be a pop singer on MTV, but when it came to a live performance on “Saturday Night Live,” she had to fake it by using a backup voice track. After the track was played in a snafu, first she blamed the band and then she blamed acid reflux.
Author James Frey of “A Million Little Pieces” infamy didn’t plagiarize, he just made stuff up.
Frey must have taken a page out of the Jayson Blair Style Guide. He of New York Times infamy made up descriptions of places he’d never seen in order to file some of the paper’s front page domestic news stories — from his apartment.
What is really sad about this situation is that Viswanathan will get to keep the money she’s made from her book. She’ll get to keep the money from Dreamworks whether they make the movie or not, and most likely they will, since the project has a built-in publicity machine now.
And why not?
After all, Ashlee Simpson keeps “singing,” “A Million Little Pieces” keeps selling, Barry Bonds keeps hitting home runs despite being clouded in a steroids controversy, Paris Hilton became a household name after a sex tape was plastered all over the Internet, Pete Rose never admitted he gambled on baseball until he had a book to sell, President Clinton “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” “Lost” star Michelle Rodriguez chooses five days in jail over 200 hours of community service for her DUI conviction, Jayson Blair got a book deal after he was fired, and, and, and.
Viswanathan will learn a lesson from this, but the lesson she’ll learn is any publicity is good publicity, and the more controversy surrounding her, the more money she’ll make.