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Publisher rejects Kaavya's apology

"It is inconceivable this was a display of youthful innocence or an unconscious act," said Crown's publisher Ross.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 16:15 IST

The author and publisher of the books Kaavya Viswanathan is accused of plagiarizing rejected the teen-author's assertion that she unconsciously and accidentally duplicated passages.

''We find both the responses of Little, Brown and their author . . . deeply troubling and disingenuous," said a statement from Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of Crown, which is a division of Random House.

''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," said Ross.

Instead, according to Washington Post, McCafferty's camp released statements saying it had found at least 40 apparently borrowed sections -- more than twice the number previously reported -- in Kaavya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.

 
Kaavya Vishwanathan admits that her book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life borrowed passages from another novel

All these sections, they said, contained language, scenes or dialogue similar to passages in McCafferty's

Sloppy Firsts

, published in 2001, or

Second Helpings

, from 2003.

The list of parallels released Tuesday by McCafferty's publishers include some small elements repeated verbatim. Viswanathan's use of "dregs" to describe drug users, her description of a boy as smelling "sweet and woodsy," and her tale of a visit to the mall that concludes "170 specialty shops later . . ." are all contained in one of McCafferty's books, according to the list.

Climbing the charts

As the controversy over "Opal Mehta” enters its fourth day, the media frenzy appears to be boosting Viswanathan’s book sales, reports New York Times.

On Tuesday night, the novel had jumped to number 77 on amazon.com’s book sales ranking, up from number 178 on Monday. Sloppy Firsts had risen from number 1,546 on Monday to number 327 on Tuesday on amazon.com, and Second Helpings had climbed from number 4,912 to number 898 on the website, where rankings are refreshed every hour.

Kaavya apology

Kaavya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, published in March by Little, Brown and Company, was the first of a two-book deal reportedly worth six figures. But on Sunday, the Harvard Crimson cited seven passages in Viswanathan's book that closely resemble the style and language of the novels of Megan McCafferty.

 
Former Cosmopolitan editor Megan McCafferty also writes novels for young adults

"When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty,

Sloppy Firsts

and

Second Helpings

, which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel and passages in these books," Viswanathan, 19, said in a statement issued by her publisher on Monday.

"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalised Ms McCafferty's words. 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. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities.

"I sincerely apologise to Megan McCafferty and to any who feel they have been misled by these unintentional errors on my part.

Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch said on Monday that he did not think Viswanathan's borrowings were caused by the pressures of being both a student and an author.

Pietsch also declined to blame Viswanathan's collaboration with 17th Street Productions Inc, a book packager that specialises in teen narratives and helped her develop the story.

"Every word in that book was written by her, for better or for worse," he said, adding that work on a new edition would begin on Tuesday.

Viswanathan, who was 17 when she signed her contract with Little, Brown, is the youngest author signed by the publisher in decades. DreamWorks has already acquired the movie rights to her first book.

Viswanathan's novel tells the story of Opal, a hard-driving teen from New Jersey who earns straight A's in high school but who gets rejected from Harvard because she forgot to have a social life. Opal's father concocts a plan code-named HOWGAL (How Opal Will Get A Life) to get her past the admissions office.

McCafferty's books follow a heroine named Jessica, a New Jersey girl who excels in high school but struggles with her identity and longs for a boyfriend.