CopyKaavya: Recall reactions all over the place

By Carmen Comment

At the Edgar Awards last night, the news of OPAL MEHTA being recalled became “the text message heard round the ballroom.” And while the official word from Little, Brown — who took up two tables at the banquet to fete Best Novel nominees Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos — was a firm no comment, one source within the publishing group did acknowledge that it had been a very difficult week for all involved — understandably so.

The Washington Post’s piece concentrates on why the recall is seen as such a surprise move. “They must have a very good case . . . if Little, Brown and Company is going to such extremes,” said Lorraine Shanley, a principal at Market Partners International, a consulting firm in New York. “In the book industry . . . this is really fairly unheard of,” said Jon Schallert, a retail marketing consultant based in Florida.

Meanwhile, one bookseller told the Harvard Crimson that the scandal had not significantly increased sales of the book. Harvard Bookstore supervisor Ben Newcomer also added that (as of last night) he hadn’t yet received any word of the recall. And Jenny Fry, a publicist for Time Warner UK, Viswanathan’s UK publisher, confirmed to the Guardian that the author’s book tour had been cancelled in that country.

And Reuters, in their piece on the recall, comments that “Viswanathan is the latest writer to face accusations of ethical impropriety that have shaken the publishing industry.” Though it’s difficult to tell if such a blanket statement is actually true – even in the aftermath of James Frey – it does fall in line with what Crown editor Jason Pinter (whose debut thriller THE MARK appears in stores next summer) said on his blog earlier this week. “‘It’s an isolated incident,’ I used to say. Now about six isolated incidents later, I’ve come to the realization that maybe we should police ourselves better. Maybe we get away with too much….Sometimes shit happens, but if our hearts are in the right place that’s what matters. But there are others whose hearts don’t quite line up in the margin, and the rest of us have to justify them.”

Ron adds: Before the news about the recall broke, the Huffington Post followed up on its initial lukewarm op-ed by Jesse Kornbluth, which had little more to say than “So, heard about this writer?”, by running a piece by novelist Rachel Pine that discussed Viswanathan’s public behavior, imagining that more was left to be said on the Alloy question: “[She] isn’t hiding behind attorneys or spokespeople, but has instead been spewing mea culpas around the media like a broken record, except that she can’t figure out how she made this error…It’s time for the grown-ups to step up and explain exactly what happened. Kaavya Viswanathan is a new writer, and if she didn’t plagiarize, she should certainly know who did.”