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Kaavya Viswanathan in more trouble

The debutant novelist has admitted to having 'unintentionally' copied from author McCafferty's books.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 12:10 IST

Embattled debutant novelist Kaavya Viswanathan's cup of woes overflows as the publisher of the two books from which she admitted to having borrowed rejected her apology as 'troubling and disingenuous.'

Viswanathan has admitted to having unintentionally and unconsciously copied from author Megan McCafferty's two books Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings for her own much heralded first novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.

The 19-year-old Chennai-born author, who is a Harvard University sophomore, said she was a huge fan of McCafferty and was 'surprised and upset' to notice the similarities.

She said she did not realise how much she had 'internalised' McCafferty's writing about young adults.

However, those placatory words did not seem to convince Steve Ross, publisher of Crown, an imprint of Random House, who said, "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."

He said that there were more than 40 passages in Viswanathan's book 'that contain identical language and/or common scene or dialogue structure from Megan McCafferty's first two books.'

Ross described it 'nothing less than an act of literary identity theft.'

According to the Times, Ross appeared not to accept Viswanathan and her publisher, Little, Brown & Co's announcement that her novel would be revised to 'eliminate any inappropriate similarities' and that an acknowledgment to McCafferty would be added.

He said, "During the several intervening months to follow this original edition would still be in bookstores. That's one of the issues that is of great concern to us."

McCafferty's new book, Charmed Thirds is in the stores now. Ross described the controversy as 'an enormous distraction and disruption.'

He also said Crown had not ruled out legal action. "Right now this is in the hands of our lawyers," he said. "We're waiting to see what their recommendations are."

In her reaction to Viswanathan's apology, McCafferty's agent Joanna Pulcini said, "It is understandably difficult for us to accept that Viswanathan's plagiarism was unintentional and unconscious, as she has claimed."

Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown, said his company was looking forward to 'a speedy and amicable' solution. He added, however, that he had not yet seen the 40 similarities that Ross claimed existed between the books.

"We look forward to hearing from the author and from Random House and to resolving this," he said.

The plagiarism charges were first reported by Harvard University campus paper The Harvard Crimson. It was not clear whether the university would take any disciplinary action against the young author.

First Published: Apr 27, 2006 12:10 IST