Notes from Kaavya Viswanathan’s former instructor

Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard undergraduate who signed a cool half-million book deal during her freshman year, stands accused of plagiarizing “parts of a coming-of-age novel published by a New Jersey writer in 2001.”

After looking at the passages she lifted, you may wonder why Ms. Viswanathan didn’t just slap together something equally uninspired. But one of her former instructors has surfaced at Metafilter to offer some perspective:

Kaavya was my student last spring (in a section where I was a TA). I was surprised to learn she had written a book, as her writing was awful– I had given her low grades on her papers.

I feel bad for her, even though she was always falling asleep in section (as if you don’t notice a snoozing person sitting at a conference table for ten). Plagiarizing from chick lit has to be some kind of double whammy against artistic integrity.

Update: Viswanathan tells the Harvard Crimson that any similarities were completely unintentional and unconscious.

Update 2: Apparently a packaging company and Viswanathan hold joint copyright in her novel. Attribution and copyright are always tricky in these book-for-hire scenarios. (A friend writes in with a great — and wholly speculative — conspiracy theory. She’s hoping “both books were ‘packaged’ at the same packager,” and “both ghostwritten by the same person,” and that the writer re-used material “on purpose to subvert the system and bring to light the fact that many bestsellers are ghostwritten.”)


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