Friday, April 28, 2006

How Opal Mehta Got Caught & Taken Off the Bookshelves

Today is the sixth and final day of the Opal Mehta scandal, at least as far as this blog is concerned.

Little, Brown has declared an immediate recall of Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan's first book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life (HOMGKGWAGAL). Little, Brown had already shipped the first 55,000 books of a reputed 100,000 book run to booksellers so this will be a very expensive recall for them. According to the Associated Press, despite previous statements that the book would be revised to remove the plagiarized sections; Little, Brown would not offer comment when asked if the book was being changed, or canceled altogether.

I just checked e-Bay to see if the book was on sale there and found a dozen copies ranging in price from $.01 to $99.99. I then purchased a copy from

Apparently as part of the same behind-the-scenes settlement, author Megan McCafferty issued a statement in which she said, "I wish to inform all of the parties involved that I am not seeking restitution in any form...I look forward to getting back to work and moving on, and hope Ms. Viswanathan can, too."

While Ms. McCafferty's statement is both gracious and graceful, no one can argue that she has achieved two things in the past week: first, enormous publicity for her own new book, Charmed Thirds, which was released on April 11; and, second, removal from the bookshelves of a novel that was competing with hers for the YA consumer dollars.

Kaavya Viswanathan declined comment.

Dreamworks had already purchased the film rights to HOMGKGWAGAL. Although there was no official word, Internet rumors were that the project will be shelved. Publishers Weekly reported that Variety said Dreamworks already had a script for HOMGKGWAGAL and that, "though the studio first considered acquiring McCafferty's work, it now seems that the project is being dropped entirely."

Lest Kaavya sink into utter depression, the Associated Press reminded readers of another scandal over 25 years ago. In 1980, Jacob Epstein admitted that his debut novel, Wild Oats, was plagiarized from writer Martin Amis. "Epstein found forgiveness in Hollywood, where his writing credits include "Hill Street Blues" and "L.A. Law."


Emjay said...

Since you are allowing yourself an acronym for the name of the offending book, and who can blame you, I shall allow myself to use initials for the name of the author, KV, as I would not care to attempt spelling or pronunciation of either her first or last name.

The question asked by the domestic partner when I attempted to relate this complicated story was: "How did whoever picked Ms. KV to author the planned book happen to choose this particular young lady?"

My question is (beyond the obvious one of how could I get them to pick me) does she get to keep the advance?

If she does, I refuse to feel the least bit sorry for her. She's already made more money than most of us will with our writing, and if she is talented, she can grind out some YA's using another--one hopes more pronounceable name--and still sell some books.

Maya said...

Emjay: The counselor hired to get KV into Harvard referred her to William Morris. KV then had an agent who put her in touch with the book packager. I suspect the attraction for Alloy was that she was enormously marketable--a beautiful and smart teen writing for other teens. Alloy probably came up with the plotline for HOMGKGWAGAL and handed it to KV with the expectation that she would produce the book. And she did--with a little help from Megan McCafferty.