Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

How Kaavya Viswanathan got rich, got caught, and got ruined

Reading the Crimson article inspired me to do some investigative blogging of my own and has led me to a fantastic discovery which I would like to reveal first to SM readers (an then later to the world press). Aided by SM staff I have found striking similarities between the novel “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” and the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. For example, if you take the name of the main character, “Opal Mehta,” and you rearrange the letters, it gives you the following phrase:
A PALE MOTH
I think somewhere in Holy Blood, Holy Grail they mention that “a pale moth” is one of the symbols associated with the female divinity, a symbol that was suppressed in the 6th century by the papacy. On a previous post we all wondered why the title character would be named “Opal Mehta” of all things. It makes sense to me now.
Furthermore, I have reason to believe that Kaavya Viswanathan may not even be her real name. Rearranging the letters in her name gives you:
SATAN AWAY ANKH VIVA
Roughly translated this seems to mean that Satan stays away from wherever the Ankh is displayed (the ankh being an ancient symbol that some believe is the precursor to the Christian cross). This again is a theme that Baigent and Leigh discuss in their non-fiction book. Before the Harvard Crimson article I would have just thought that “maybe this is all a coincidence,” and this really is just a book about a teenage girl that she created from her imagination. I am sure that you all agree in light of the evidence that I have just laid out that this is highly unlikely. This girl simply has no conscience.
By the title alone I think I’m going to like this book. Little Brown & Company has offered Kaavya Viswanathan a $500,000, two book deal. The Financial Express provides the details:
Youre 17 and want to get into US Harvard University, but first what do you do about those infernal jumping hormones that every gal goes through post-teens. Being an Indian, you dont indulge your sex-oriented daydreams (study first, pleasure later). So the next best option is to pen them to paper and get rid of the hots.
In a huge first, US born Kaavya Viswanathan did exactly that and more. Little Brown & Company, a respected 109-year-old publishing house offered Kaavya a $500,000 two-book deal with the first one to be out next spring titled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In. Considering that first-time writers get $10,000, Kaavya sure made a killing.
Writing is also the way I get rid of my “hots.”
The New York Sun (registration required) goes into more detail:
Ms. Viswanathan began writing the novel while still at the Bergen County Academy at Hackensack. She’s the only child of her Indian-born parents, Viswanathan Rajaraman, a neurosurgeon, and Mary Sundaram, a gynecologist.
“Everybody in my family, including my parents, won science prizes,” Ms. Viswanathan said. “I was the one with the writing gene – and I’ve no idea where that came from. My parents are still in a state of shock. When I’ve gone home on some weekends, they look at me working at my computer and surely wonder, ‘Who is that strange person?’”
What I can’t help noticing is that a 17-year-old writer, seems to like writing about day-dreams and possibilities, and getting wild, whereas older writers like to focus on why Indian men (or women) suck.
“The main character is a girl of Indian descent who’s totally academically driven, and when she senses from a Harvard admissions officer that her personal life wasn’t perhaps well-rounded, Ms. Mehta goes out and does what she thinks ‘regular’ American kids do – get drunk, kiss boys, dance on the table,” Ms. Viswanathan said.
Can I get a “hell yeah?” Please, anyone?
Many of you have already picked up on the story broken by the Harvard Crimson on Sunday. It appears VERY likely that young author Kaavya Viswanathan is a cheat. Her newly released novel, part of a lucrative two-book deal, has several passages that are almost identical to a 2001 novel that examined similar adolescent themes:
A recently-published novel by Harvard undergraduate Kaavya Viswanathan ‘08, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” contains several passages that are strikingly similar to two books by Megan F. McCafferty—the 2001 novel “Sloppy Firsts” and the 2003 novel “Second Helpings.”t one point, “Opal Mehta” contains a 14-word passage that appears verbatim in McCafferty’s book “Sloppy Firsts.”

Reached on her cell phone Saturday night, Viswanathan said, “No comment. I have no idea what you are talking about.”

McCafferty, the author of three novels and a former editor at the magazine Cosmopolitan, wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson Saturday night: “I’m already aware of this situation, and so is my publisher…” [Link]
Normally I would be skeptical until I heard more about this, but the Crimson has just broken it down to the point where you know how this is all going to end. Her literary career is over. If I were her I would think about falling back on medical school or something real quick. I was thrilled to see a teenage girl that could still write and didn’t use “u” instead of “you,” or “r” instead of “are.” My hopes for the next generation are now completely dashed. Here are just two of the numerous examples of apparent plagiarism cited by the Crimson:

From page 217 of McCafferty’s first novel: “But then he tapped me on the shoulder, and said something so random that I was afraid he was back on the junk.”

From page 142 of Viswanathan’s novel: “…he tapped me on the shoulder and said something so random I worried that he needed more expert counseling than I could provide…”

From page 237 of McCafferty’s first novel: “Finally, four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, we were done.”

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One response

  1. Anon

    “I have reason to believe that Kaavya Viswanathan may not even be her real name. Rearranging the letters in her name gives you: SATAN AWAY ANKH VIVA”
    It may have been instructive to list your “reason” – this is such baseless and ridiculous nonsense. You may want to do some research on how the Chick-lit novel industry works before making such sweeping proclamations.

    Were there similarities in Kaavya’s novel and that of Megan McCafferty? Yes. However, there are no original thoughts in this world. Every idea, every thought has not only been occurred to someone in the past, but it a direct result of someone in our past.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm

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