Excerpts from Various Drafts of Kaavya Viswanathan's Novel, Along with Alternate Titles

The shelf life on this piece may be a little past expiration. Oh, well. Here's an excerpt from How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life for refreshment.

How Opal Mehta Got Drunk, Got into a Fight and Got a Job at the Post Office

So before I began kindergarten, my parents came up with a plan—a carefully plotted and thoroughly constructed plan, which we all referred to as HOWGITPS (How Opal Will Get Into The Postal Service). I've followed HOWGITPS to a tee since elementary school. By the time I was 15 I was already a Christmas temp, shoving those Xmas cards in the slots. I was shacked, but the shackjob was gone half the time, so when the big girl gave me her address I came by. What I mean by big was that her ass was big and her tits were big and that she was big in all the right places. She was good for one night all right, she was a good lay but like all the lays after the third or forth night I began to lose interest and didn't go back. But I couldn't help thinking, god, all these mailmen do is drop in their letters and get laid. This is the job for me, oh yes yes yes.

How Opal Mehta Got Smack, Became a Junkie and Went to Tangiers

A tall man came into the room on crutches, dressed in a sober navy suit. "I'm Dean Anderson," he said, "head of the Admissions Department. You can come right this way. Please pardon my crutches. I've been teaching my asshole how to talk and now it's been eating my legs." I didn't know what to say to that, so I let out a very nervous ha. It sounded like a cross between a cough and a laugh. He started telling me all about his asshole, how it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy incurving hooks, and started eating. He thought this was cute at first, and built an act around it. But the asshole would eat its way through his pants, and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags, nobody loved it, an'- and wanted.. and it wanted to be kissed, same as any other mouth. Finally, it talked all the time, day and night. You could hear him for blocks, screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it. But nothing did any good, and the asshole said to him, "It's you who will shut up in the end, not me. Because, we don't need you around here any more. I can talk, and eat, AND shit".

How Opal Mehta Got on a Raft, Freed a Nigger, and Went Down the River

But I didn't want to be interviewed by the Dean of Admissions. I wanted a smiling, young graduate student. Anybody besides Mr. Anderson, in his pin-striped suit, with his graying hair and mustache, his pinkish-brown tan, and his big bright cast. He wasn't even smiling back at me.

"Shall we get started? I just have a few questions, nothing you haven't heard before. So, tell me, what do you like to do for fun?"

"I'm president of the French, Spanish, and National Honor Societies at school," I said, pleased by how calm my voice sounded. "Though I wonder sometimes, why, Mr. Anderson, doan' de French people talk de same way we does?"

"No, Opal; you couldn't understand a word they said -- not a single word."

"Well, now, I be ding-busted! How do dat come?"

"I don't know; but it's so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S'pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy -- what would you think?"

"I wouldn' think nuff'n; I'd take en bust him over de head -- dat is, if he warn't white. I wouldn't 'low no Non-Resident Indian to call me dat."

"Shucks, it ain't calling you anything. It's only saying, do you know how to talk French?"

"Well, den, why couldn't he say it?"

"Why, he is a-saying it. That's a Frenchman's way of saying it."

"Well, it's a blame ridicklous way, en I doan' want to hear no mo' 'bout it. Dey ain' no sense in it."

How Opal Mehta Was Born of a Virgin, Preached the Gospel and Died for Our Sins

"I don't know," he said.

I couldn't move. I couldn't even remember Psalm 23:4.

"Your application materials, Ms. Mehta, are among the most impressive I have seen. Your academic record is flawless, and your list of extracurricular activities is extraordinary. But —"

I couldn't stay silent any longer.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged," I said. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."

Dean Anderson straightened. He stroked his mustache back into place, and wrote something down, very deliberately.

I shuddered. I was slowly beginning to realize that I had made a complete fool of myself. Jerusalem U would never ever accept me after this. They would probably have to move my file from M: Messiah to P: Psychotic.

How Opal Mehta Lost Her Parents, Raised Her Brother and Wrote a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

"You know, the great thing is that this format makes sense, in a way, because an interview with the head of admissions at Harvard actually did take place. Because, see, I think what my novel, and Harvard, reflect so wonderfully is that the main by-product of the comfort and prosperity that I'm describing is a sort of pure, insinuating solipsism, that in the absence of struggle against anything in the way of a common enemy--whether that's poverty, Communists, whatever--all we can do or rather all those of us with a bit of self-obsession can do is copy other people's books. See, it's society's fault, really. We're people who think our personality is so strong, our story so interesting that others must know it and learn from it. How are we supposed to do that if we don't actually have any talent ourselves? By copying from those who do, of course. How was I to know people would notice? Who reads anymore, really? I didn't even read the books I copied. I got the material subconsciously or something with my super-genius eidetic memory, you have to believe me! Please!"