Well, it's official. The 21st century is the age of plagiarism.
First, Jayson Blair copied and invented his way to the front page of The New York Times. Then, James Frey invents vehicular manslaughter, a rehab stint, and a painkillerless root canal and gets himself a best-selling "memoir." Now we have Kaavya Viswanathan, who, at age 17, got a six-figure book deal and admission to Harvard. Turns out Kaavya's first novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," borrows passages almost verbatim from one of her favorite authors, Megan McCafferty.
This blogger cites some of the passages. He thinks it's more the fault of "book packagers"-- companies that specialize in skewing (rewriting and editing) books for a teen demographic.
The media company that "packaged" Kaavya's book is 17th Street Media Productions. They describe themselves as: "a leading developer and producer of media properties for teens. The Company produces approximately 150 books annually, including the Sweet Valley series, Roswell High, Fearless and Real Teens: Diary of a Junior Year. In addition to editorial, design, and production, and licensing its properties to television and film, software, and foreign territories, 17th Street Productions markets and promotes its properties in conjunction with today's hottest teen brands such as Atlantic Records and Union Bay."
The involvement of media companies in the writing process is troubling. Can you imagine if Charles Dickens was a young writer today?
"Yeah, Charles, this Oliver Twist kid is great, but does he have to be an orphan? Our focus groups show that orphans don't play well in the blue states. Also, do you mind if we add in a couple paragraphs about the new Sugar Ray album?"But anyways, this plagiarism thing seems to be working out well for today's authors. Yeah, Blair got humiliated, but he was on the front page of the Times. And Frey got bitched out by Oprah... but he also made millions. Where has my original, unplagiarized writing gotten me? I'm thinking I might give this plagiarism thing a shot.
My First Novel (first draft)Phew! That was difficult. The Ctrl and V keys on my keyboard are worn down to the nub. Just a couple more chapters and multi-million dollar book deal here I come!
It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. It was somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember. I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer. But you can call me Ishmael.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "To be born again," he said, "first you have to die." Many years later, when I faced the firing squad, I was to remember that distant afternoon.
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in the village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
"To be or not to be," I said to her.
"Romeo," she smiled sweetly. "Wherefore art thou been?"
"Just bought the new Sugar Ray CD," I replied.
END OF CHAPTER ONE