How Jonah Lehrer Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

Remember Kaavya Viswanathan? A Harvard freshman in 2006, Viswanathan published a young adult novel that borrowed heavily from the oeuvre of Megan McCafferty, another (older) young adult novelist. Soon, others found evidence that Viswanathan had, in addition to stealing McCafferty’s lines, lifted passages from four other books. This blog’s founders dubbed Viswanathan the “Patron Saint of IvyGate.”

And now we have Jonah Lehrer, the pop-science writer, who copied and pasted paragraphs of his own writing, and passed them of as fresh material, to The New Yorker. This morning, Edward Champion reported that Lehrer blatantly plagiarized a New Yorker essay by Malcolm Gladwell.

Without knowing where exactly he went to college, we intuited that it was an Ivy (Columbia, as it turns out), and that he probably won some kind of award (the Rhodes, as it turns out). After all, Lehrer has spent a short, lucrative career flogging noxious pseudoscience as a method of enlightenment and success. You basically must be credentialed by a prestigious university like Columbia (preferably as an undergraduate), regardless of what you studied there, to do so. Thus Jonah Lehrer: who, at the age of 30, based on books that openly ignore standards of research, of science, snags a job at The New Yorker. Thus Kaavya Viswanathan: who, at the age of 18, based on a secretly plagiarized manuscript, signs a six-figure book contract. Read the rest of this entry »

Kaavya Meets Aleksey Meets A Million Little Pieces

oddmanoutMinor YouTube celebrity and shameless self-promoter Aleksey Vayner went to Yale. Georgetown Law student – (really?) – and plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan went to Harvard. Resident at New York Presbyterian/ Columbia Hospital Matt McCarthy went to Yale and then Harvard Medical School, so he certainly edges out his infamous Ivy peers for prestige, and with the release of “Odd Man Out”, his error-ridden memoir about his year pitching for a minor league baseball team, he may top – or at least match – both Viswanathan and Vayner for deception.

A few days ago, The New York Times reported that “Odd Man Out” – which delves into the particulars of “playing with racist, steroids-taking teammates, pitching for a profane, unbalanced manager and observing obscene behavior and speech” – contains evidence of “wide-ranging errors and misquotations”:

Several times in the book, which he devotes mostly to the antics of libidinous teammates and his manic manager, Tom Kotchman, McCarthy directly quotes people stating incorrect facts about their own lives and tells detailed (and mostly unflattering) stories about teammates who were in fact not on his team at the time. The book’s more outrageous scenes could not be independently corroborated or disproved; several teammates who were present said in interviews that they were exaggerated or simply untrue.

Is there a listing for “selective hearing” in the DSM-IV? More after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

IvyGate Classic: Kaavya Before She Was Kaavya

IvyGate Classic: Kaavya Before She Was KaavyaHarvard’s punch season is upon us, so now is as good a time as ever to revisit last year’s Isis flap. (We’ll say it again: we were born a year late.) Long story short, the Isis, one of Harvard’s sororities, accidentally left its “punch book,” a forum where sisters commented on each punch candidate, accessible on the web. Punchers got drilled for “fake smiling,” having a “self-serving attitude,” or “trying way way way too hard” — and the whole world knew it. Cattiness abounded, reputations crumbled, hilarity ensued.

IvyGate Classic: Kaavya Before She Was KaavyaA Harvard tipster points out that one puncher — you’ll never guess who — was described as “the NEXT BIG THING and it would be a coup to have her in the club,” although she’s “a little awkward. I thought so after the first event but was also suayed [sic] by her air of sophistication and fashion sense.”

Awkward? Fashionable? THE NEXT BIG THING?! We’ll kill the suspense and reveal, with the wisdom of hindsight, that Ms. Kaavya Viswanathan is now a proud Isis member. When this season’s punch book gets leaked, we’ll be sure to vet it for, uh, similarities to last year’s.

EXCLUSIVE: She’s Baaaaack! Kaavya’s First Post-Plagiarism Writing

EXCLUSIVE: She's Baaaaack! Kaavya's First Post-Plagiarism Writing

EXCLUSIVE: She's Baaaaack! Kaavya's First Post-Plagiarism WritingObsessed as we are with the Kaavya Viswanathan of the moment, we almost forgot to keep tabs on Kaavya 1.0!

The critically acclaimed author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life has resurfaced with what we believe is her first piece of post-plagiarism writing: a profile of Janet Hanson for a glossy magazine put out by Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business.

Our verdict: Not a bad piece, really — guess Kaavya can write after all. Except she kinda buries the lede:

“When asked what piece of advice she would give other aspiring businesswomen, Janet doesn’t hesitate. ‘Maintain integrity at all costs,’ she says. ‘Personal integrity is the most important quality anyone can have, no matter what you’re doing. You need people who will recommend you without a single reservation.’ “

Too late, Janet. Too late.

[PDFs: Part 1 | Part 2]

Patron Saint of IvyGate Returns to Campus

Patron Saint of IvyGate Returns to CampusAs the children of fair Harvard returned to the womb this week, the winds of Rumour brought us good news in e-mail form:

To: IvyGate@gmail.com
From: xxxx@fas.harvard.edu
Date: Sep 13, 2006 1:49 AM
Subject: She’s baaaack!!

Returning from a little welcome back party at the Phoenix–the Euro-trashiest of final clubs–and who was holding down at the bar? Ms. Kaavya Viswanathan.

Joe* [to guest]: “You getting a drink?”

Joe spots Kaavya. Kaavya smiles.

Joe: “Oh. Well, I know you are.”

Welcome back, Kaavya. Holler some time, the drink’s on us.

(*name changed)

Medill Journo All Up in Ivy Dailies’ Piece

Medill Journo All Up in Ivy Dailies' PieceAh, late summer! What a time to work for a daily Ivy newspaper. The semester’s about to start, you’ve spent all summer relaxing with a leisurely weekly publication schedule, and you just can’t wait to get after that breaking news!

But … what’s that noise, you ask? That stinging sensation? Oh, nothing, it’s only Laura McGann bitch-slapping the shit out of you. The Northwestern (graduate) journalism student scooped the national press in mid-August, when sh’all was sleepin’, by revealing that the federal Department of Education has been sharing data from hundreds of student loan applications with the FBI for almost five years. McGann’s blockbuster story (it got red-faced pickup in the Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday and the New York Times today) sets the bar for investigative student journalism, topping David Zhou’s Kaavyabomb in the Crimson last semester.

Tough act to follow, Ivy reporters. And you’re supposed to be tops in the game. Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you!