Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kaavya In Trouble

When I wrote about Kaavya Viswanathan earlier, I wondered how her career would proceed after the allegations about her being a copycat surfaced. Now we know!

After admitting that she had inadvertantly copied passages from Mccafferty's books (by the way, Harvard University's student newspaper and the New York Times have found two more books Kaavya apparently "internalized" sections from!), Kaavya had said that she would be rewriting those passages in the second edition of the book. But her publisher, Little, Brown and Company, has taken her book off the market and will not be republishing the book. Worse, they also cancelled the contract on her second book (Kaavya had signed a 2-book deal initially).

Meanwhile she is still enrolled at Harvard though the university's spokesman has said rather ominously that "according to Harvard's student handbook, students who submit work that is not their own and is not properly credited will be subject to disciplinary action".

So is this the end of the young author's writing career? And maybe her life as a student at an Ivy League school too?

25 Comments:

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for a moment i thought that was abt Kavya as soon as i saw the title & was concerned... :)

its a little too harsh to be thrown out of school also in addition to all the humiliation et all she must be going through now

acedemic integrity is a big deal and all but what Kaavya did really was not course work related, so i dont see that as grounds for her to need to be disciplined - stricly speaking... but harvard might be more concerned abt its image & something drastic cud happen beacuse of that

it wud be ironic if that were to happen - considering her book being abt a girl wanting to get into harvard & she (Kaavya) losing her place there because of that book

all said & done, i feel bad for her, she's just a kid & probably deserves a second chance - i'm not condoning wat she did, but think all the negative publicity & losing her 2nd book deal etc is punishment enuf

 
At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, there are two interpretations to the statement that "students who submit work that is not their own and is not properly credited".. one is definitely that Kaavya may not have had an intention of submitting her book(s) as material for a final exam or paper in one of her classes. Unless she submits the books in lieu of her assignments or course work, they can't hold it against her.

The other interpretation is the more ambiguous one. Anything she does (writing and otherwise) that will affect the Harvard name in any way can make her fully accountable to be put under disciplinary action.

The first interpretation claiming that she didn't submit any of her work as assignments or course work (with some serious lawyering) may or may not win Kaavya an extended stay in Harvard. But the whole argument that she could and should be held accountable for all her actions and how the Harvard name is affected by her actions can be used as a basis for considerable disciplinary action.. but I don't think they can use plagiarism as an excuse to expel a student.

Regardless, Kavya's credibility withing Harvard is completely lost and has forever marred her opportunities in the workforce in the future. She'll have to earn her millions by writing an autobiography about her experience (this time, hopefully, not 'internalizing' any passages from McCafferty's books! :-) ;-)..

 
At 12:19 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

deepa, yeah, if the school thinks its image is at stake, they could do something drastic. but i think the part "students who SUBMIT..." is key since the book is technically not something she's gonna be submitting at school. if they do take some action, it could be contested on that basis and then things would really get ugly! and i understand ur sympathy for her and ur wish she gets a 2nd chance. but wonder where she'd get that! ppl r gonna go over everything she writes from now with a fine tooth comb. and the number of places she seems to have copied from brings into question her ability too...

sandya, spot on about her credibility being lost. i'm guessing there were parties and official functions to celebrate kaavya's book deal 2 yrs ago. so she must've really lost face among her friends and teachers. forget harvard sending her out. it would be real tough for her to continue studying even if the univ doesn't kick her out...

 
At 7:15 AM, Blogger Raju said...

I saw that she is interested in pursuing an MBA from the famous Harvard Business school; I seriously doubt it would happen. A typical example of hero to zero in no time..

I dont think Harvard would expel from her BA.. though they stress that Harvardians should behave outside the campus in a dignified way, they probably dont seem to have any rule for throwing out wrongdoers.

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger prakash said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"for a moment i thought that was abt Kavya as soon as i saw the title & was concerned... :)"

-- MY THOUGHTS EXACTLLLY...BB, kaena madhiri title vechurundheenge...take that back :-) neways, I hope that she does get a second chance...I think at her age, it is not an unpardonable sin to commit these kinds of mistakes...sure, it shouldnt even be condoned but I hope she has learnt her lesson...which leads me to one of my favorite quotes:
When you lose, dont lose the lesson:)

 
At 8:25 AM, Blogger prakash said...

Far as her writing career goes, I don't know. If her next book (oh, you bet she'll find a publisher) turns out to be half decent, she'll show up on Oprah, and things will work out better than w/out the controversy. She lives in the US after all, where a "bad guy turned good" is more loved than the "good guy all along" :)

As for employment opportunities, does she want to be a writer or something? Otherwise, I don't think it will matter at all. I don't think 90% of employers have even heard about this controversy. And if her name wasn't 'Kavya Vis', I wouldn't given this article a second glance. 5 years from now, even I'll go "Kavya who?" So I don't think she has to worry about her future.

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we never know - she herself may opt of her school not being able to face her peers, teachers etc...

regards her writing career, maybe all is not lost - she can definitely be more careful & original in future & self publish if no publisher is willing

like others have mentioned, controversy might actually aid her & ppl might be curious to read her next work

Ram, that was a good quote :)

 
At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

her literary career is no doubt over! and rightfully so... I wld hope that harvard now also does the right thing, she should no longer be at the school

vic

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prakash may be right!.. She may find another publisher and might end up finding a job in some other field (where nobody might know about her writing skills!).. but from purely a moral standpoint.. we're not talking about a girl walking into a college and getting pregnant at 17 (a 'minor' from our perspective; who didn't have the maturity or the presence to make a good decision with regards to sex!).. we are talking about a 19 year old (who has most probably been taught almost every minute after she started writing coherently that 'copying' was unacceptable!).. Here is a woman whose actions need to be taken seriously and treated that way as well. As much as I feel for her (hey, I am a Cal Alumni myself and have been through a tougher road at 19 then many of you could have even imagined!.. Won't go into what here! :-).. but looking at her purely as a 19 year old college student.. immediately eliminates a lot of a sympathy that I just had for her.. You may not be the epitome of sound judgement and utmost responsibility at 19, but you should clearly know and draw the line between 'right' and 'wrong' by that age. If not.. well, Kaavya should be able to tell you what happens when one lapse in judgement can cost you your very future dearly. After all, her ticket into Harvard was her writing skills, right?.. What happens to that ticket now?

Disgrace is a very personal thing and sometimes life long for many. Society may forget (may or may not forgive!).. but if Kavya has a conscience (and I'm sure her parents do too!), it will hurt for a very very long time..

 
At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandya, that was a very eloquent piece of writing. Seriously. I do agree with you that a 19 year old college student must know the difference between just being inspired by a piece and blatantly plagiarism. To chastise her now is but a natural reaction but I also think that she needs to find ways to "recover" from this and start afresh, hopefully with the lessons she's learnt from this widely publicized blunder of hers.
But yeah, I'd be interested to see how Harvard treats her. Kaavyagate, it is as BB put it!

 
At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i meant, blatant plagiarism

 
At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for her actually, but cant resist saying that she reminds me mildly of music director Deva. Check the below stanzas from the Book "Born Confused" and Kaavya's "Opel Mehta" It is a simple write up about an Indian lunch and I dont understand, why in the name of Lord couldnt she come up with some originality in a subject thats (indeed) close to home..pun intended!

From Born Confused:
"All day the house had smelled of spices, and now before our eyes lay the resulting combustion of all that kitchen chemistry. The feast my mother had conjured up was extravagant. I wasn’t a big fan of Indian food, at least not on a daily basis, but today the sight of it was pure poetry. Brown sugar roti and cloud-puff puris just itching to be popped. Coconut rice fluffed up over the silver pot like a sweet-smelling pillow. Spinach with nymph-finger cloves of garlic that sank like butter on the tongue. A vat of cucumber raita, the two-percent yogurt thickened with sour cream. And the centerpiece: a deep serving dish of lamb curry, the pieces melting tenderly off the bone.”"

From Kaavya's Opel Mehta..
"This year, fortunately, there wasn’t an egg in sight. Instead, the house had smelled of spices all day, and I nearly combusted at the sight of the extravagant feast my mom had conjured up. Usually I wasn’t a big fan of Indian food, but today I was suddenly starving. The table creaked with the weight of crisp, brown rotis and feather-light, puffy puris. Clouds of cashew and sultana-studded coconut rice in an enormous pot. There was plump okra fried in oil and garlic till it melted like butter on the tongue. A crock of raita, a cool, delicious mixture of yogurt and sour cream. The centerpiece was a deep dish of mutton curry, the meat already falling off the bone.”

....darn all this food for thought, and Im hungry now!

 
At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm glad someone brought this up abt music directors, i was going to say the same thing abt indian filmmakers - most of what they make is a rehash and in some cases blatant copies of movies from all over the world. yet, we have no problem watching these & sometimes even appreciate their efforts in blending it for local tastes & such things

how are they any better or how is kaavya worse than them? yet, we dont have ppl going around predicting/wishing their doom

maybe ppl were jealous of her previous success or we are being defensive by making a huge deal out of this & behaving like this never happens in india, so shd be aptly punished

 
At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'The table creaked with the weight of crisp, brown rotis and feather-light, puffy puris.' - hows that possible?!? how heavy cud they be...

i wonder how this process of comparing books is done, its like searching for a needle in a haystack - only much worse :)

& yep, its so easy to write abt food, she was that lazy i guess..

speaking of mouthwatering food descriptions, enid blyton used to do them best imo in her famous 5 series - at that time, i wasnt even familiar with all those things she described but could tell that it was an awesome spread!

 
At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

deepa, bb had posted my short story on bbthots a few weeks back...adhukku oru reader wrote,

"The sight of the sun kissing the waters a few minutes before it decides to pave way for the night is something to be cherished. " - Nice line... but, in Marina, the sun kisses the water only in the morning since Chennai is in East coast.

idha padichittu, i wanted to say, "kavithaikku poi azhagu!"

adha madhiri "hows that possible?!? how heavy cud they be..." ipdi laam kaekaama summa ensaay maadi! just kidding...!

 
At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ram, i've yet to read ur story, i will one of these days & let u know...

i managed to understand ur tanglish :) (me only a tam movie watcher, music listener & broken tam speaker)

i agree, everything shdnt be analysed - irundhalumm just found that very funny & couldnt help pointing it out ;p

ur line was very poetic indeed :)

 
At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

poor kid.......i feel bad for her....I"m guessing she cracked under the pressure b/c obviously she would've got caught if she had ever done such a thing before......

but really what was the girl thinking???? ....hope things get better for her......and really 19 is not sooo old.....true u do get lectured about not plagirising.... but people do it all the time.....profs steal from their students...it's just a matter of doing it smartly....yes it is not right but let's not be so hypocritical.....

 
At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

deepa, reg. analyzing that line, again i just was thinking of how i'd reacted (in my mind) to the reader who posted that comment on the story...so, was just joking abt how sometimes we find these small things distracting us from our reading experiences...:)

 
At 10:33 PM, Blogger pagala'k' said...

(on a completely unrelated note)Review request: Waiting for a desi perspective of United 93.

 
At 11:12 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, loved the quote :)

shwetha, been itching to have a look at the passages she's supposed to have copied. so thanx :)

and now that i've seen this, i can confidently say that there is no way this is 'internalization' as she claims. while 'internalization' could lead to a similar sentence structure or a similar phrase, an entire paragraph with so many similarities is nothing but blatant plagiarism!

deepa, i think the only factor helping out our filmmakers is ignorance. few people come to know about a film being a remake. also, since the story is indianized, etc., people don't seem to mind about it as much. but writers r held in higher esteem and i think plagiarism has more notoriety in the literature world even back home. i mean, if a writer who achieved a lot of fame was proved to have copied a lot of stuff from an old Sujatha novel, i'm sure there'd be a lot of hullabaloo about that too :)

 
At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

balaji, that makes some sense - filmmakers still add some value of their own whether thru indianising the story or songs, depiction etc whereas all a writer does is write - so originality plays a bigger part

oh well! who said the world was fair anyway. its just too bad for kaavya that if she was gonna copy, she chose the wrong profession...

 
At 2:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I just got into this after a whole week of killing work... One thing I'm really surprised to hear are the comments from authors who Kaavya supposedly took the liberty in copying from...

Rushdie says that the copying is so extensive that it is difficult to understand how she could have internalized the whole thing... Well, perhaps he should first think about how he became famous... A lousy book called Satanic versus caught the eye of religious head and then the rest is history... That book was mostly a translation of koran from what I have read and heard... For him to accuse someone else of lifting passages from someone else... Well if you look at it in a different perspective, he lifted from the koran word for word for god's sake... ;)

To put the whole thing in perspective... The book is 320 pages long... They are saying she copied 40 passages from McCafferty's book... I've read some of the passages and they are hardly 5 lines each... (Though I should say, the passages are awfully similar) I would think the whole thing would not be more than 3 or 4 pages... Let's say she took another 10 pages from all others, then you are looking at around 15 to 20 pages from 320 pages less than 10%. If the rest of the book is really good, then whatever she is going to suffer because of this is just too much to swallow... (Also if that is the complete extent of the so called plagiarism and if Kaavya really has gift for remembering stuff, then I'm not opposed to giving her a benefit of doubt when she says she internalized the whole thing)

I wish the blame band wagon would realize what they are talking about... But of course these prissy writers like the good for nothing Salman Rushdie (who became famous for all the wrong reasons) will flame the passion behind all this and will never accept that they themselves do this day in and day out from dead writers like Shakespeare et al and from other non english writers...

The main mistake Kaavya did, in my opinion, is to INTERNALIZE from contemporary English writers...

I wish people would weigh the fluff in all these accusations before totally crushing a new writer, if she is really any good...

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger bl@her said...

whatever be it, kaavya has won a lot of our concerns, and also blog spaces... here goes mine: http://booksandblahs.blogspot.com/2006/05/me-too.html

 
At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if a writer who achieved a lot of fame was proved to have copied a lot of stuff from an old Sujatha novel, i'm sure there'd be a lot of hullabaloo about that too

That's funny, considering Sujatha is no stranger to plagiarism, himself. For instance, in one of his weekly columns for Ananda Vikatan (Katradhum Petradhum), he ripped off a Jerry Seinfeld stand-up bit and fobbed it off as his own experience while describing young people's expecations of their future spouses.

The Seinfeld bit, verbatim: What's brutal about the date is the scrutiny that you put each other through. Because, whenever you think about this person in terms of the future, you have to magnify everything about them. Like, the guy will be like, "I don't think her eyebrows are even.. Could I look at uneven eyebrows for the rest of my life?" And, of course, the woman's looking at the guy thinking, "What is he looking at? Do I want someone looking at me like this for the rest of my life?"

Another unnecessarily famous writer, Geetha Bennet, ripped off a Mad About You episode (in full) for a short story that was published in Ananda Vikatan or Kumudham.

There are merely a couple of examples, and from recent times.

 

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