Tuesday, April 25, 2006

a half a million for plagiary

Ever since I read Regine Desforge's 'The Blue Bicycle' I've had a horror for plagiarism. Ms. Desforges is a French author who, unable to think of her own story, basically translated Gone with the Wind into French, transposing it at the same time to the second world war.
And now, a young Harvard student has been accused of copying a book by a popular YA author. She proclaims her innocence, but the paragraphs side by side are damning. And so is the advance she recieved - a half a million dollars. I sometimes wonder if the publishing business has all its marbles.
After Frey now Kaavya Viswanathan, who, although a Haraverd student, is too stupid to think of her own plot or write her own book, but instead lifts the plot and even the dialogue and prose word for word.
Of course, Ms. Viswanathan denies everything, claiming she was "very surprised and upset" to learn that there were similarities between some passages in her novel and passages in the other books.
Lifted from 'The New York Times' is one example of the similarities:

At one point in "Sloppy Firsts," Ms. McCafferty's heroine unexpectedly encounters her love interest. Ms. McCafferty writes:
"Though I used to see him sometimes at Hope's house, Marcus and I had never, ever acknowledged each other's existence before. So I froze, not knowing whether I should (a) laugh, (b) say something, or (c) ignore him and keep on walking. I chose a brilliant combo of (a) and (b).

" 'Uh, yeah. Ha. Ha. Ha.'

"I turned around and saw that Marcus was smiling at me."

Similarly, Ms. Viswanathan's heroine, Opal, bumps into her love interest, and the two of them spy on one of the school's popular girls.

Ms. Viswanathan writes:
"Though I had been to school with him for the last three years, Sean Whalen and I had never acknowledged each other's existence before. I froze, unsure of (a) what he was talking about, or (b) what I was supposed to do about it. I stared at him.

" 'Flatirons,' he said. 'At least seven flatirons for that hair.'

" 'Ha, yeah. Uh, ha. Ha.' I looked at the floor and managed a pathetic combination of laughter and monosyllables, then remembered that the object of our mockery was his former best friend.

"I looked up and saw that Sean was grinning."

I saw a couple other examples over at the 'Boston Globe'. What pisses me off is not that the silly girl is denying it - who would admit to such a thing? Of course she's going to try to pass it off as 'her subconscious tricked me' or some such tripe. What pisses me off the most is this: I read a lot, and I write a lot, and I would know if I copied someone's story and book. I'd know if the plot were similar, and if I'd read the book, as she claimed, I'd sure as hell know if I copied a phrase. Or two (there are 13 of these such incidences in her book, and it's not even a very big book.)

So this is what should happen. She gives the advance back. The publisher stops printing the book. If she's a good author she'll write something else, hopefully her own work. If she sucks, like I think she sucks, we'll never see her again.
One can only hope, at any rate. And No, I am not going to buy her book out of 'curiosity'. There are enough scammers out there making money off honest people as it is.
(End of rant, back to our previous program...)


Anonymous said...

This reminds me a lot of the Brad Vice case. He was ultimately denied tenure and fired. The situation in terms of Harvard's options seems different, but the type of plagiarism is the same:


Sam said...

I can't get this link to work - is it about another plagiarism case?

Harvard says that it's not responsible - I tend to agree.

Lyn Cash said...

*shaking my head over this one*

Once, maybe twice such a thing could happen. After that, in the same piece of work? ack. Not when it's almost verbatim.

December Quinn said...

You read The Blue Bicycle? I've read excerpts but nothing more. (In an essay about plagiarism by Florence King, who herself was plagiarized more than once, most notably by Molly Ivins.)

Plagiarism. Just plain bad. I agree, a couple of times I've written a line or a joke and had to wonder if I'd read it somewhere first. Google is pretty invaluable, but so is my actual memory. If I think about it long enough, I can usually remember.

Why would you want to take credit for someone else's work?

Sam said...

I read the Blue Bicycle only because I started it and wanted to see how far the plagiarising went. It was really awful.
I have no idea why people do this - laziness, egomania, a feeling of superiority?