plagiarism n.; The act of plagiarizing, something plagiarized. From plagiary. Plagiarist n., plagiaristic adj.
In the wake of the Da Vinci Code court case another plagiarism accusation has been raised, this time against 19 year old Kaavya Viswanathan. Viswanathan was offered a two book contract at 17 by Little Brown & Company two years ago – the first novel being How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, about a girl living in the suburbs of New Jersey. Viswanathan made history as being one of the youngest authors to seal a two novel contract and have the rights to her first novel bought by Dreamworks.
However, earlier this month, fans of Megan F. McCafferty noted strong similarities between McCafferty's two novels Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings and Viswanathan's Opal Metha. The young author claimed her innocence in a formal statement earlier this week: "I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious."
The statement was later rejected by McCafferty's publishers upon revision of the similarities: "The extensive taking from Ms. McCafferty’s books is nothing less than an act of literary identity theft. Based on the scope and character of the similarities, it is inconceivable that this was a display of youthful innocence or an unconscious or unintentional act." McCafferty's agent, Joanna Pulcini, said that she had found 45 similarities between the two authors. (source: The Harvard Crimson)
The Harvard Crimson, which broke the story on Sunday, has recorded at least 12 strong similarities between the two novelists: here and further similarities here. In comparison to Dan Browns' case, Viswanathan has indisbutably used large pieces of text that are almost identical to McCafferty's original manuscripts'. Not surprisingly, the novels involved in the dispute have experienced a large surge in sales – with Opal Metha jumping from 178 to 90 on amazon.com's bestseller list.
It will always be difficult for anyone to be completely original when creating a literature, art or music but the similarities between the two texts are undeniable. Whether Viswanathan's plagiarism was intentional or not, cryptomnesia, can be heavily disputed however. Cryptomnesia is defined as the 'appearance in consciousness of memory images which are not recognized as such but which appear as original creations'. (Webster's Third New Int. Dict.)
Although idea and plot borrowing can occur unknowingly it is difficult to believe that Viswanathan was unaware of what she was doing, although not impossible.