Friday, June 09, 2006

Goldie Reads Chick-Lit On A Dare, Part IV

Whew! Finally, Blogger is up and running so I can finish this post.

Warning: These stunts were performed by a seasoned professional. Please do not try them at home.

I have given it a lot of thought. I participated in online discussions. And, as a result, I came up with five different versions of what has happened here and why. Please feel free to choose whichever one suits your taste.

Version 1. "Simpsons did it": the gist of this version, which I had initially subscribed to, was that everyone borrows from everyone else in chick-lit. It's just the nature of the beast. It doesn't really matter since all books in the genre are roughly the same anyway.

Take a look, for instance, at Megan McCafferty's two books presented here.

1. In the first chapter of "Sloppy Firsts", titled "January" (or is it the second one - "February"? Beats me), Jessica and her best friend Hope get busted for keeping a "Brutal Book" - a notebook where they write highly offensive things about each one of their classmates, by name. This is an exact copy of the "Burn Book", as featured in "Mean Girls" - come to think of it, even the titles are practically alike. The only difference is that the creators of "Mean Girls" present their "Burn Book" as an ultimate act of bitchiness and cattiness, whereas for Megan McCafferty it is an act of rebellion and an indication of Jessica's and Hope's high intellectual abilities. Apparently it takes a very smart person and a flaming nonconformist to write trash about their classmates behind their backs. Gee, who knew.

As an aside, "Mean Girls" seems to be a must-see for any author in the genre, at least judging from the three books I've read. Multiple similarities to the picture are evenly distributed throughout each novel.

2. I was initially taken aback by the manner in which Jessica signs her letters to Hope - "Tick-tockingly yours, J.", "Quasi-Famously Yours" and so on. (As an aside, I initially wanted to title this post "Barfingly Yours", but then realized that few people will get it.) Who in the world, I wondered aloud, would sign their letters like that? And then it dawned on me. Margo Howard, that's who. This advice columnist has been signing her letters in this exact manner since at least the Nineties.

3. The titles of the books, with the books' sequential numbers worked into each title. My, isn't that original? No, it's not. Check out Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series that starts with "One For The Money" (1994) and "Two For the Dough" (1996), and is now in its double digits.

4. At the beginning of "Second Helpings", Jessica resolves to stop referring to the books' dark male character, Marcus, by name, and instead calls him "He Who Shall Remain Nameless". Wait, or is it "He Who Must Not Be Named"? Nope, that’s Voldemort. Megan McCafferty gets bonus points for borrowing from quality literature.

You see? And these are just a few similarities that caught my eye while I was skimming the books. I didn't do any research or anything.

Version 2. KV really, intentionally, stole the book from MM.

Personally, I doubt it. The books are just much too different.

Version 3: Brain disease. This occurred to me as I was replying to a comment. I suggested that, as you read this book, it gets permanently lodged in your brain like a tumor of sorts, and then parts of the book tend to leak out when you least expect it - like, when you're writing a book of your own. This should be treated as a brain disease so, if this is the case, anyone that has read the books needs to see a specialist. (Yes, me, too.)

Version 4. What took place here was the "unintentional" copying that Kaavya referred to in her public statement, and everyone dismissed as the lamest excuse in human history.

Now this one, I tend to believe.

And therein lies an enormous problem for me as a wannabe writer.

You see, what I think happened here was, both KV and MM set out towards the same goal, to write a high-school chick-lit book. Only KV did not have any real-life experiences to get her material from, so she borrowed (intentionally or not) from every chick-lit book she'd read. Whereas MM had her work experience at Cosmo, ElleGirl and such to draw from, which she did. Her novels, as well as her heroine, are very, very Cosmo-ish. But at least they are more or less original, at least as far as the plagiarism legislation goes. The obvious conclusion is, if you cannot write about something you can personally relate to, then you should not write at all.

This is where it gets difficult for me. Like everyone else with a blog, I want to write. And I know I'm good at that, especially when I write in my native language. Problem is, what do I write about? I have put many of my real life stories on paper. I'm now at a point where I am out of real-life stories, unless you count the ones that, if posted, will get me sued and/or divorced. I have to move on to fiction. But how? If I only write about something I can relate to, all my stories will be about immigrant Russian women with two kids, a dog and a chinchilla. If I try to write about things unfamiliar to me, I will unintentionally borrow from someone and, in the unlikely event that I get published, end up like poor Kaavya. What's a girl to do? Any advice in the comments section is much appreciated.

But the real winner is…
Version 5. This was suggested by a very wise person on a forum. The very wise person offered that the entire scandal is a publicity stunt, organized by one or both of the sides involved.

This adds up perfectly. Think about it. Look at me. I've gone and read three of the books. I paid my hard-earned money for one of them. Before this whole barrel of shit hit the fan, who ever heard of Kaavya Viswanathan or Megan McCafferty? By now, everyone has. The scandal did more for both authors than years of carefully planned PR work would have. So, I stick with version Five. Let me know which version you found most plausible.

And now, I am on a quest to get all three books out of my system. It won't be easy. I am currently reading "Hogfather", which will be followed by "Salem’s Lot", which will be followed by "Death Of A Hero", which will be followed by "American Gods".

This should be enough.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:35 AM

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