There’s a rather astonishing fact in today’s Times piece on book packaging and Kaavya Viswanathan: both Viswanathan and the woman whose work was plagiarized from shared the same “editor.”
Here’s the Times:
….the same editor, Claudia Gabel, is thanked on the acknowledgments pages of both Ms. McCafferty’s books and Ms. Viswanathan’s “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.” Ms. Gabel had been an editorial assistant at Crown Publishing Group, then moved to Alloy, where she helped develop the idea for Ms. Viswanathan’s book. She has recently become an editor at Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group, a sister imprint to Crown.
Ms. Gabel did not return calls for comment. But Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, the publishing company that owns Crown, said Ms. Gabel, who worked at Alloy from the spring of 2003 until last November, had left the company “before the editorial work was completed” on Ms. Viswanathan’s book.
“Claudia told us she did not touch a single line of Kaavya’s writing at any point in any drafts,” said Mr. Applebaum, who added that Ms. Gabel was one of several people who worked on the project in its conceptual stage.
Could Claudia Gabel be the woman who plagiarized material from one author to use in Viswanathan’s “book”?
That is an interesting quote from Stuart Applebaumâ”did not touch a single line of Kaavya’s writing.” Careful readers will note that it does not say whether Ms. Gabel added any material to Viswanathan’s writing, which may have constituted ten pages, for all we know. Visnawathan herself says that her first contribution to the book was an autobiographical e-mail sent to the good people at Alloy, and they took it from there.
Here’s a hilarious mistake from the Times, by the way:
Ms. Viswanathan was, in some ways, an unusual Alloy author. She was not recruited by the packager, but rather, was introduced to it by William Morris, the agent.
Um…William Morris is not an agent; William Morris is a literary agency (which, by the way, happens to represent me) founded in 1898 by oneâsurpriseâWilliam Morris. It is rather astonishing that the reporters who cover publishing for the New York Times could make that boo-boo. (Well, on second thought, maybe it isn’t.)
One final thing: Readers of the Times piece may also note that everyone at Little, Brown is very careful to say that Alloy Entertainment couldn’t have been responsible for the act of plagiarism and that it was, boo-hoo, Kaavya Viswanathan.
Little, Brown, for one, was not blaming Alloy. “Our understanding is that Kaavya wrote the book herself, so any problems are entirely the result of her writing and not the result of the packager’s involvement in the book,” said Michael Pietsch, the publisher.
Read between the lines: The Little, Brown people are distancing themselves from Viswanathan…cutting her loose, because they care more about preserving their relationship with a book packager.
Note that quote too: “Our understanding is that Kaavya wrote the book herself….”
This is not the same as saying, “Kaavya wrote the book herself….”
In other words, Michael Pietsch is giving himself some wiggle room, because, frankly, Kaavya probably didn’t write the book. But now that Viswanathan has publicly claimed that she did, Pietsch, who probably knows the truth, can say that “our understanding is that Kaavya wrote the book,” thus letting Alloy off the hook.
Later, if it comes out that Alloy wrote the book, Pietsch can come out with a statement like, “We were, sadly, led to believe by Kaavya Viswanathan that she had written the book by herself…”
The legal interests of Little, Brown and those of Kaavya Viswanathanâbecause that’s what this language is really aboutâare starting to separate. Viswanathan herself is quoted all over the place, in this article and elsewhere, and her quotes are not helping her case. If her publisher were still in her corner, you have to think they’d tell her to shut up already. My bet is, she’s out there on her own, exiled by the lawyers at Little, Brown.
This is getting ugly.