Proving that plagiarism doesn’t ruin your career (at all) we have the case of Kaavya Viswanathan, the lit wunderkind who scored a reported $500,000 two-book deal while still in high school, had the first of her chick-lit novels published her sophomore year at Harvard, and then got busted for having “borrowed” from Megan McCafferty, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Salman Rushdie.
Her book and movie deals were canceled, and she was taken to task in all manners of media, even though she claimed that the similarities — for example, “In a truly masochistic gesture, they had decided to buy Diet Cokes from Mrs. Fields” (hers) vs. “but in a truly sadomasochistic dieting gesture, they chose to buy their Diet Cokes at Cinnabon” (McCafferty’s) — were “completely unintentional and unconscious.”
Viswanathan graduated from Harvard and got into Georgetown Law, and now … she’s summering at top-tier, old-school conservative law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. Where they, presumably, are aware of her past, given the fact that they’re, like, a law firm (we’ve reached out for comment).
Legal news-gossip website Above the Law posits that in this woolly era “with its 24-hour news cycle, controversies burn hot but die out quickly” — making it really, really hard to kill a budding career with a little scandal like the purloining of the published words of someone else.
They go on to apply that theory to the Harvard Law student (you may have heard of) who recently “started a racist email war” about whether black people are categorically less intelligent than white people:
This is why “Crimson DNA,” the Harvard Law School student whose provocative email upset many people, still has a bright future ahead of her — perhaps including a SCOTUS clerkship with Justice Thomas. In fact, rather than feeling bad for Crimson DNA, you should envy her for her fame. As Samuel Johnson once said, “I would rather be attacked than unnoticed.” Or, if you prefer, take Oscar Wilde: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
If all this is true, getting fired is way, way harder than we thought it was.
Then again … and we’re just speculating … maybe there’s something about being a plagiarist, or a “provocative” emailer, that makes you uniquely suited to certain career choices. Kinda like boozers are just meant to work in journalism. We are who we are, man.