Tuesday, May 02, 2006

is it just me, or is this not the most compelling evidence of plagiarism?

From the NYT. The Times is alleging that the Harvard sophomore whose lame novel was lifted from shelves for plagiarizing lame passages from another lame novel is guilty of plagiarizing from someone else's lame novel as well. The strangely unsmoking guns they provide:
In one scene in Ms. Kinsella's book, which was published by Dial Press, the main character, Emma, comes upon two of her friends "in a full-scale argument about animal rights," and one says, "The mink like being made into coats."

In Ms. Viswanathan's book, Opal, the heroine, encounters two girls having "a full-fledged debate over animal rights."

"The foxes want to be made into scarves," one of them says.

There are echoes in another scene in which one of Ms. Kinsella's characters threatens another, "And we'll tell everyone you got your Donna Karan coat from a discount warehouse shop."

In Ms. Viswanathan's version, Opal threatens another girl, Priscilla, saying, "I'll tell everyone that in eighth grade you used to wear a 'My Little Pony' sweatshirt to school every day."
Update, minutes afterward: Oops. The NYT has a longer set of excerpts in a side graphic that is more convincing. If I were the kind of person who could stand to say "my bad" as opposed to "oops" or "hey, wait, I made a mistake", I would say my bad. Or really, the NYT writer's bad, and, before that, Ms. Viswanathan's bad.

BTW, I cannot be the only professor who has followed this story, remembered plagiarizing students from the past, and thought "if only they changed the text this much from the material they lifted!"

17 comments:

Kieran said...

I cannot be the only professor who has followed this story, remembered plagiarizing students from the past, and thought ...

At this point in the sentence I thought, "Woah! Jeremy admits to plagiarizing his former students?"

You know, saying "my bad" is not materially different from saying "mea culpa." There is a Bourdieuian point here about cultural capital.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we've just reached a point in time where it's all running backwards -- as the guy said, it's deja vu all over again.

dorotha said...

to me, saying "my bad" is like saying "cool beans." it became popular when i was in junior high and it always grated. my older sister went through a phase, in the mid to late 80's, during which she liberally peppered her speech with "cool beans." i suppose my obsession with "awesome" and "totally rad" during elementary school is equally unforgivable.

for the record, i don't say "mea culpa" either. i usually say "oops" or "i guess i made a mistake." sometimes i just say "shut up!"

Anonymous said...

Like, I think, like, the book like she, like, lifted? was like, way better.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeremy,
How many books did you write as a sophomore in college? Criticize the plagarism... but not the content of her book. That's lame.
--TOK

carly said...

Umm, wait, just cause the author is relatively young, we're not allowed to criticize the content of her book?

All plagiarism aside, she's a published author and her work's out there for public approval or disapproval. If the content of her novel was lame, Jeremy or anyone else has every right to call it lame.

(Umm, and I also thought of Jeremy plagiarizing his students as well, by the way)

jeremy said...

I would note that all I've read is the passages that have been called into question, which are lame. She got paid like a grown-up for the book; she's open to grown-up criticism.

jeremy said...

As for myself plagiarizing students, I will admit there was this one experimental proposal that a group of graduate students did regarding antibacterial soap that I thought was a good idea and wanted to steal it, but that was mostly because the students themselves obstinately refused to do anything further with it.

Blondie said...

My 38 year old supervisor uses "cool beans" and "groovy" regularly in everyday conversation. As in, "Oh, you already finished the project? Cool Beans!"

I then proceeded to smack myself in the head with my keyboard.

*sigh*

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're right. She's published and was paid handsomely for it so she can be criticized. In fact, she should be criticized. We shouldn't, you know, respect that she took a chance to do something creative (plagarism, of course, aside), something that many of us have thought about doing and have wanted to do but never actually done. And we shouldn't perhaps think about who the intended audience might be (and how it's probably not often-too-smart-for-their-own-good 35 year old male professors). And we definitely shouldn't actually read the book before we decide that it's lame. I don't know what I was thinking. My bad.
With love,
TOK

jeremy said...

I will confession to some puzzlement about the depths of TOK's anger about this. I am not especially invested in any of my assertions of lame-ness.

jeremy said...

Oh, look, I made a typo in my last comment. How lame. (Don't you call it lame, though, unless you've tried to write a comment yourself instead of just sitting around wishing you could have your act together enough to finish a whole comment someday.)

Anonymous said...

It's not anger. It's puzzlement because the I thought the comments were uncharacteristic of you. (You, who asked everyone to be very gentle when offering critics of your short short fiction writing.)
--TOK
p.s. I would never criticize your typos.

A+ said...

As one of The Soap People myself (which sounds like a horror movie), I would give you the go-ahead to just take the idea and do it, but it just doesn't feel like mine to give. I can assure you I was most definitely not the brains of that operation.

dorotha said...

as 1/4 of the antibacterial crew, i give my permission for you to run with our idea. if everyone else could just weigh in...

also, TOK, you are totally freaking out. calm down. the book looked pretty dumb to me, too, and i've been reading young adult books targeted at girls for freaking ever. and i hang out with lots of girls. and i'm hardly ever to big for my britches.

anyway, i don't know why you'd give some silly undergrad a contract to write a book. i'm pretty dense about the publishing biz, but i thought first time authors wrote books and then submitted them or something. plagiarism aside, it seems totally cheat-y to me that they also laid out the first few chapters for her. but, like i said, i don't know much about publishing a book.

finally, you don't know real-life jeremy if you think he wouldn't attack the writing of some sensitive, brave undergrad. if seen him knock babies about the head with a seal pup before.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

I figure if you actually get a two-book publishing deal and an accompanying big fat check, it will give you a warm fuzzy feeling to fall back on when people are mean about your writing. Whereas if you're just writing ssf for a class, you lack the ego failsafe provided by the bucket of money.

That said, I don't believe in being nice to anyone about bad writing. This did not make me the most popular kid in the creative writing classes I took in college.

And how exactly is it "taking a chance to do something creative" to plagiarize the hell out of a bunch of not in themselves terribly original pieces? With books like that, the central appeal (for me, anyway) is the wittiness of the writing rather than any innovative plots or ideas. If you stole your wittiness, there's not much left to impress me.

jeremy said...

Dorotha, Ang: The TESS program is currently suspended so the window of opportunity for antibacterial soap has probably passed. Plus, not really my thing. But, it was great work.

Regarding my short short fiction, it is true that people mostly followed my pleas to be nice in the blog comments. However, my story "Dead Baby" received savage reviews in private communication.