double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

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'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.

LINK: The 71 page judgement from the Da Vinci Code court-case has a code of its own: Yet to be broken, the Guardian have full details.


6 Responses to “double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

  1. 1 Kevin April 27, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Not sure if you read it, but the Language Log has covered this quite well, offering two opposing takes on the situation.

  2. 2 poetbloggs April 27, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    I hadn’t seen the Language Log take on the whole thing – certainly an interesting argument on both sides. Personally I don’t believe that Viswanathan was unaware of the similarities – she professes to having a photographic memory so it is not impossible for her to have unintentionally included the passages, while being aware of them.

    Thanks for the links Kevin.

  3. 3 Onyeka Nwelue April 30, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    She knew when she copied them. Forget about that criminal.

  4. 5 pb. April 30, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    News that Little, Brown & Company have pulled the books from sale is here:

    Possibly an action of guilt? You can hardlfy forget about Viswanathan, if for no other reason than the lesson learned from her mistakes.

  5. 6 poetbloggs April 30, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Viawanathan may not be entirly to blame in this – the same book packager worked with both authors (but at different companys)

    Opal Metha publishers have take the book off sale anyway, and admitted that Viswanathan received less than half of the $500,000 – the rest went to the book packaging company.

    A 17 yr old with a book deal is great marketing and Viswanathan may have simply just been an impromptu marketing tool. Not everything is as black and white as has been made out in this case.

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