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Archive for April, 2006

Of Ghosts and Writers

I love conspiracy theories and a new one has just caught my attention.

Perhaps, Kaavya Viswanathan was not to blame for plagiarizing Megan McCafferty's work?

The International Herald Tribune writes that both Viswanathan's and McCafferty's books were edited by the same person.  

"…Claudia Gabel, is thanked on the acknowledgements pages of both McCafferty's books and Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life." Gabel had been an editorial assistant at Crown, then moved to Alloy, where she helped develop the idea for Viswanathan's book."

Here's my How Opal Mehta Is a Deeper Mess Than We Could Have Imagined theory:

Viswanathan did not heavily borrow from McCafferty. It was Gabel, who edited Viswanathan's work, who did. But Gabel also edited McCafferty's work, so perhaps she wasn't plagiarizing at all. Perhaps, she was simply appropriating lines that she had written for an earlier work.

This explains why McCafferty is, curiously, not very indigant about the plagiarism. C'mon, if it were your work being plagiarized, wouldn't you be spewing fire and venom? A writer looks at an article the same way a mother looks at her baby. After all, both writing and childbearing involve the painful process of birting. But McCafferty seems curiously detached.

Now, you might ask, why doesn't Viswanathan save herself by pointing the finger at Gabel?

Because she couldn't. If she blames Gabel, she would end up destroying herself. What would the accusation say about her? That she did not write the book herself? That she wrote Opal Mehta but that a substantial part of it was eaten up by the backspace / delete button?

So, her hands are tied. She takes the blame for the plagiarism. But semantically, she really isn't taking the blame. She's making her photographic memory take the blame. It's her memory that's convoluting her ideas; her memory that made her appropriate lines from another person's book; her memory that pushed her to replace Psychology class with Human Evolution class. And yes, it was also her memory that convinced her to use 170 shops later.

In the meantime, the ghostwriter gets off scot-free. After all, the cover says she didn't write the book.

And Viswanathan? It's possible that her one good deed of the month is making a significant contribution to the English language. She just might succeed in making people accept "internalize" as a synonym to "steal."

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Opal Recalled

It's often said that no publicity is bad publicity. Notoriety attracts attention and attention, whether positive or negative, sells books. But in Viswanathan's case, some mistakes just can't be publicized away.

Harvard Crimson reports that the publisher of "Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" are now asking stores to return all unsold versions of the book.

I think they are doing the right thing. Opal Mehta is no Da Vinci code. Da Vinci's author was said to have stolen the "architecture" of his book from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. A judge later on tossed this allegation out of the window. The judge ruled that Dan Brown did not use "all the same historical conjectures" espoused in Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

This is precisely why I'm saying there's no parallel between Opal Mehta and Da Vinci. The plagiarism involved in Opal Mehta was not abstract. It involved more than a very close thematic similarity. Opal Mehta liberally borrowed phrases, sentences, and paragraphs from two books by Megan McCafferty.  Worse, these phrases, sentences, and paragraphs were changed craftily to make them less google-able.

If the publishers allow Opal Mehta to continue making the rounds in thousands of bookstores worldwide, they would only make itself vulnerable to lawsuits and snubs. They may not have written the book themselves but they did distribute it.

In some people's eyes, that makes them equally culpable.

Many people believe that Kaavya Viswanathan's writing career is officially over. I don't. It's possible that all the attention has done what her book hasn't – cemented her spot in the literary world. After all, people are going to be following what she does during and after this controvery. Would she write that second book or would she give up writing altogether? Perhaps, she would simply write about her ordeal. If Stephen Glass' story made it to the big screen, why shouldn't hers? After all, no material is ever too sacred or dirty for moviemakers to touch. In the grand scheme of moviemaking morals, a teenager plagiarizing isn't as big a deal as a serial killer chainsawing his way through a town.

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How Kaavya Got Published, Got Famous, and Got Caught

I was absent-mindedly clicking my way through the afternoon when I came across a video that made me sit up.

Katie Couric interviews a Harvard sophomore who denies she intentionally plagiarized another author's work. Katie asks piercing questions and 19-year-old Kaavya Viswanathan looks like she's a stiletto away from tears. I feel sorry for her but I'm also not buying her excuse.

I cringe, though, at the thought of how uncomfortable, humiliating, and painful it must be to sit through that interview. Specific points of similarities were cited by the Harvard Crimson and these similarities became the the stones that are being hurled upon Viswanathan's head.  

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Nice Girls Don’t

He wakes me with a kiss. Happy anniversary, he whispers. I grab his balls. You can't get away that easily, I said with a smile. Come here and give me the anniversary I want.

We make love. I am so wet his penis keeps slipping away whenever he pulls out. As always, I finish myself off because he could never bear to be rough with me.

Minutes later, we lie together without speaking. We talk as we stare at the ceiling. I feel myself soaking up the sheets. I'm still drenched, I tell him. And I still feel horny.

We both look at his deflated member. Can you resuscitate it? I asked. I took it in my mouth. It leaped back to life. I let go so I could straddle him. I sigh when I could not feel his hardness beneath me.

Sorry, he said sheepishly. It's too soon and I'm too tired. You fu**ed my brains out.

I flip to my side so he won't see my disappointment.

You're always horny and aggressive lately, he marvels. It's like you're another person entirely. You're not acting like yourself.

Inwardly, I cringe. Not myself? This is myself.

But, I understand what he means. He likes me better when I exude ice from every pore. He likes me better when I pretend disinterest. This must be why he grabs me whenever I'm on my way to the office. He knows I hate taking my clothes off especially when I just put them on. So, whenever I angrily refuse his advances, he gets so aroused that one time, he even came in his jeans while we talked near the doorway.

He's weird, that way. He can only get it up for encores when he thinks I don't want a tumble. A passive response excites him. Passion turns him off.

After all, I'm his wife and wives are nice girls. They don't writhe in longing; they don't beg; they don't tell you to hurt them. They're not as wanton as the girl now lying beside him.

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Almost, But Not Quite

I like it rough, I told him.

How rough?

Sweaty, no-holds-barred rough.

You sure? he said as he nibbled on the straps of my nightgown. We might wake the baby up.

It's pitch-black. She won't see a thing even if we wake her up.

He starts kissing, kneading, exhaling. I feel goosebumps form everywhere. He starts cupping my breasts. I strain against the sheer material of the nightgown. I want to tear it off. Leave it on, he said. I like doing you with that material bunched around your waist.

Pervert, I panted. I arch my back as he buried his face in my breasts. Skip the foreplay, I breathed. But he wouldn't listen. He sucked, he licked, he touched. I start combusting. As if he could feel the heat oozing from my pores, he blew butterfly kisses on the mound that he had selfishly ravaged only seconds ago. I quiver like a rope stretched too tautly.

Oh my god. Oh my God. Oh my god.

Stop calling me god, he said insolently. His tongue continues the onslaught. The sheet underneath me is now soaked through.

I want you to bite me, I quavered. He bites. I scream. Quick as lightning, he shushes the sleeping child beside us back to sleep.

He admonishes me, You can't scream or you'll wake her. Your brother, too.

I nod, too dazed to speak. He thrusts his penis at my face. It feels hot, thick, and furious. I take him into my mouth. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. My mouth starts to ache. He slaps my hand on his balls. I massage his semen sac. His penis undulates to the rhythm of my mouth.

Then, mid-thrust, I stop him. No more, I tell him. My mouth hurts.

Without another word, he grabs my right leg and thrusts. The world swirls as he starts thrusting.

Deeper, faster, harder. I could feel his kisses spitting fire.

Rougher, please, I beg him. Rougher.

His thrusts become punishing, merciless.

I ooze with lascivious fluids until inside, I become so wet I could no longer feel him slipping in and out, as intensely as before. Squeeze my buttocks, I rasped. I can't feel you. Grab the cheeks and stretch so I can feel you.

He does what I ask him. His eyes glaze. He barrels into me so hard that I feel torn between pleasure and pain.

Don't turn away, he commands. Look at me. I like looking at your face. I want to take pictures of your face, like that.

He starts touching me as he hammers away. Would my finger fit with me still inside?

There's only one way to find out.

Oh god. Oh god. Yank on my hair. Make me open up wider. Rougher, please. Rougher.

But he never goes rougher. Somehow, the longer we make love, the gentler he becomes. His touch loses its urgency, as do his thrusts.

I love you, he whispers. I'm afraid I'll break you.

I won't break, I whisper back. Just ride me roughly. Hurt me a little, please.

His face starts contorting as if he were in pain. He grunts loudly and then collapses.

I feel cheated. I was almost there. Frustration rams into me like a searing pain. While he tries to catch his breath, I lie face-down to finish the job.

Was it good? he rasps a few seconds later.

Yes, I lie. It was good. It's always good.

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Sexist?

I came across an interesting post from Temperamental Artist. She presented a list that is supposed to gauge how sexist her reading has been. The list piqued my interest so I'm making my own, too.

Just present in bold font the books you've read; italicize the ones you've been meaning to read, and underline those you've never even heard of.

Allcott, Louisa May–Little Women
Allende, Isabel–The House of Spirits
Angelou, Maya–I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Atwood, Margaret–Cat's Eye
Austen, Jane–Emma
Bambara, Toni Cade–Salt Eaters
Barnes, Djuna–Nightwood
de Beauvoir, Simone–The Second Sex
Blume, Judy–Are You There God? It's Me Margaret

Burnett, Frances–The Secret Garden
Bronte, Charlotte–Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily–Wuthering Heights

Buck, Pearl S.–The Good Earth
Byatt, A.S.–Possession
Cather, Willa–My Antonia

Chopin, Kate–The Awakening
Christie, Agatha–Murder on the Orient Express

Cisneros, Sandra–The House on Mango Street
Clinton, Hillary Rodham–Living History
Cooper, Anna Julia–A Voice From the South
Danticat, Edwidge–Breath, Eyes, Memory

Davis, Angela–Women, Culture, and Politics
Desai, Anita–Clear Light of Day

Dickinson, Emily–Collected Poems
Duncan, Lois–I Know What You Did Last Summer
DuMaurier, Daphne–Rebecca
Eliot, Geroge–Middlemarch
Emecheta, Buchi–Second Class Citizen
Erdrich, Louise–Tracks

Esquivel, Laura–Like Water for Chocolate
Flagg, Fannie–Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Friedan, Betty–The Feminine Mystique

Frank, Anne–Diary of a Young Girl
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins–The Yellow Wallpaper
Gordimer, Nadine–July's People

Grafton, Sue–S is for Silence
Hamilton, Edith–Mythology
Highsmith, Patricia–The Talented Mr. Ripley
Hooks, Bell–Bone Black
Hurston, Zora Neale–Dust Tracks on the Road
Jacobs, Harriet–Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Jackson, Helen Hunt–Ramona

Jackson, Shirley–The Haunting of Hill House
Jong, Erica–Fear of Flying

Keene, Carolyn–The Nancy Drew Mysteries (any of them)
Kidd, Sue Monk–The Secret Life of Bees
Kincaid, Jamaica–Lucy
Kingsolver, Barbara–The Poisonwood Bible
Kingston, Maxine Hong–The Woman Warrior
Larsen, Nella–Passing

L'Engle, Madeleine–A Wrinkle in Time
Le Guin, Ursula K.–The Left Hand of Darkness
Lee, Harper–To Kill a Mockingbird
Lessing, Doris–The Golden Notebook
Lively, Penelope–Moon Tiger
Lorde, Audre–The Cancer Journals
Martin, Ann M.–The Babysitters Club Series (any of them)

McCullers, Carson–The Member of the Wedding
McMillan, Terry–Disappearing Acts
Markandaya, Kamala–Nectar in a Sieve
Marshall, Paule–Brown Girl, Brownstones

Mitchell, Margaret–Gone with the Wind
Montgomery, Lucy–Anne of Green Gables

Morgan, Joan–When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost
Morrison, Toni–Song of Solomon
Murasaki, Lady Shikibu–The Tale of Genji

Munro, Alice–Lives of Girls and Women
Murdoch, Iris–Severed Head
Naylor, Gloria–Mama Day

Niffenegger, Audrey–The Time Traveller's Wife
Oates, Joyce Carol–We Were the Mulvaneys
O'Connor, Flannery–A Good Man is Hard to Find
Piercy, Marge–Woman on the Edge of Time
Picoult, Jodi–My Sister's Keeper

Plath, Sylvia–The Bell Jar
Porter, Katharine Anne–Ship of Fools

Proulx, E. Annie–The Shipping News
Rand, Ayn–The Fountainhead
Ray, Rachel–365: No Repeats
Rhys, Jean–Wide Sargasso Sea
Robinson, Marilynne–Housekeeping
Rocha, Sharon–For Laci

Sebold, Alice–The Lovely Bones
Shelley, Mary–Frankenstein
Smith, Betty–A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Smith, Zadie–White Teeth
Spark, Muriel–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Spyri, Johanna–Heidi
Strout, Elizabeth–Amy and Isabelle
Steel, Danielle–The House
Tan, Amy–The Joy Luck Club

Tannen, Deborah–You're Wearing That?
Ulrich, Laurel–A Midwife's Tale
Urquhart, Jane–Away
Walker, Alice–The Temple of My Familiar
Welty, Eudora–One Writer's Beginnings

Wharton, Edith–Age of Innocence
Wilder, Laura Ingalls–Little House in the Big Woods

Wollstonecraft, Mary–A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Woolf, Virginia–A Room of One's Own

I wish I could present more texts in bold print. But I don't think the fact I couldn't means I'm sexist. It could simply mean my literary horizon is in dire need of expansion. After all, I have never heard of a lot of books and authors in the list.

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Made for Walking

What is it with men?

My husband likes ogling bad girls. You know the type; black-clad females who sport rainbowesque hair, multiple piercings, and tattoos. I don't mind him doing that. I like ogling girls, too.

But when I mentioned getting a tattoo, he vehemently vetoed the idea. "It makes you look dirty and cheap," he pronounced.

Then, last week, I got hooker boots. I call them hooker boots because they're footwear worn by showgirls on television. They're black as sin and sexy as hell. They're two inches short of reaching the kneecaps. But, they make the eyes want to stray higher. The boots were freaking expensive. They came at half the price of a brand new 21-inch television. I don't mind the price so much since the boots seduced me the moment I laid eyes on them.

What I do mind, however, is not being able to wear them. The husband thinks that I'm inviting trouble simply by putting the boots on. "They make you look slutty," he said. "They make your skirt look even skimpier."

If the goal were to appear respectable, then the skirt should have been the one replaced. But no. He wanted the boots off. So, I went to work with a skimpy skirt on, and a more sedate pair of high heels.

Then, a while ago, he sent me a kinky text message, asking me to wear the boots later. Only the boots. Nothing else.

Men!

I have half a mind to fling Jessica Simpson's song (originally Nancy Sinatra's) at him: These boots were made for walking and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

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