A Look Back at the Most Recent Plagiarism Scandal

In the Village Voice’s Literary Supplement, Ed Park takes a look back at Kaavya Viswanathan’s debut novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life and the plagiarism scandal around it.

On his blog, Blink author Malcolm Gladwell essentially tells Kaavya cavilers to get over it already, that “calling this plagiarism is the equivalent of crying ‘copy’ in a crowded Kinkos [sic].” “It is worth reading, I think, the actual passages that Viswanathan is supposed to have taken from McCafferty,” he writes, with plummy condescension. “Let’s just say this isn’t the first twenty lines of “Paradise Lost.” (My gut tells me Blink isn’t, either.)

It is worth reading, I think, the actual books from which Viswanathan stole—worth overcoming an aversion to dust jackets with long expanses of shapely legs, worth paying attention to the work of the primary victim in this whole affair. The best place to start, if you are not currently a teenage girl, is the new Charmed Thirds (published last month), which follows heroine Jessica Darling through her years at Columbia. McCafferty satirizes dorm life, internships (Jessica gets to do unpaid work at a hip Brooklyn mag), academia, the literary world (the Times describes one mentor as “a gay Dave Eggers . . . only smarter, funnier . . . and better”), and more, while keeping the doings of its deeply backstoried cast of characters surprisingly fresh.