I won't fan the stink of "Kaavyagate" much more, only because I've said enough nasty things about Kaavya and, also, because I think she has been used, essentially, as a pawn. It's hard to feel sorry for her given her actions, but surely she didn't anticipate her present situation, and she's almost certainly not the sole person responsible. At this point, she's suffered enough international humiliation, but for a recap: she wrote a book called How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life
, about a snotty New Money girl obsessed with Harvard, trying to get in. (Write what ya know.) This would be no crime, but she managed to snag an advance possibly as high as $500,000 from Little, Brown; this would be the largest advance ever awarded an unpublished author. [Wikipedia
] The literary merit of her novel has been questioned, most notably on CNN International. [here
] Perhaps not anticipating the scrutiny that would follow from such an advance, she plagiarized from several sources, including the novels of Megan McCafferty. [Harvard Crimson
I've begun to feel bad for Kaavya, only because I think she's suffering a disproportionate share of the flak. She is a plagiarist, but certainly not the only person to have done wrong. It's possible that the "packager", 17th Street Productions, may have played a role in this debacle. Moreover, I would surmise that Katherine Cohen, CEO of IvyWise, played at least an indirect role. IvyWise is a consultancy that specializes in getting rich kids into top colleges, and the methods used to do this are absurd and highly unfair. For example, she advises that students seek internships with investment banks and "internationally prominent" museums-- in high school
. [Harvard Independent
] (In college? Sure, and many of my friends have. High school? Ridiculous.) Ladies and gentlemen: here is your XXI-c. analogue of "let them eat cake". Ms. Cohen has placed clients in such otherwise unattainable internships; she is, effectively, selling her own elite connections in order to give the already-privileged an additional advantage in the discredited meritocracy of college admissions. In short, she has no ethical principles whatsoever. (Oh, she's also uglier than tubgirl. Go here
; work-safe but barely so.) Do I have special cause to believe that she played a role in Kaayva's decision to plagiarize? No, but it is evident that she played an indirect role in Kaavyagate; exposure to such a morally bankrupt person would've corrupted even the most innocent adolescent. Moreover, by having been the conduit through whom Kaavya received this outrageous book deal, with the intent of using it to get her into Harvard, Kat Cohen is even in that regard partially culpable for this disastrous fiasco. Of course, Ms. Cohen will nonetheless continue to distance herself from Kaavya, gleeful in the free publicity this scandal has given her. My personal belief is that Katherine Cohen, the puppet-master and reverse Robin Hood, deserves the bitch-slap de la saison
; Kaavya's just a dumb teenager. But I digress...
On 23 April, Kaavya was discovered to have plagiarized Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts
and Second Helpings
. As of 2 May, she has been alleged to have also plagiarized Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories
, Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries
, and Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret?
. [ New York Times Wikipedia
] Quite possibly, several more "borrowed" passages remain in it, yet undiscovered. Indeed, the well-read (if chick-lit counts toward being "well-read") might consider treating Viswanathan's work as a sort of "find the salami" puzzle at this point.
Here I speak to Kaavya directly. I have, ahem, written a card game set (given favorable conditions) to become the
definining card game of our generation, but I need all the help I can get, and that includes yours. Why, when you seem to have "borrowed" from everyone else, did you fail to plagiarize me? It would have given me exactly the publicity I would have needed. Were the game's rules not "packaged" well enough for your tastes? Ambition was right there in front of you, on the Internet, sitting pretty and ready to be plagiarized! You could've at least used a construction such as "four strikes and 170 points later". Why was I left out? Please let me know.