Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Authors Who Lie (and the Readers Who Love Them)

Another memoirist has been outed . . . by her own sister, no less!

As all papers and media are reporting, Margaret B. Jones/Margaret Seltzer (real name) wrote a "memoir" titled Love and Consequences, in which she claimed to be a former Blood gang member, and a half-Navajo foster child. The New York Times reviewed her book and ran a profile of her, detailing her (bogus) biography. It was published with a picture: the author and her 8-year-old daughter.

Seltzer's own sister called the Times to tattle. The memoir is fiction. The book is withdrawn and the book signing tour canceled.

It's probably a good read. Why did the woman have to lie and claim the story was a memoir?

A Million Little Pieces was also a good read--many people told me that. Some folks felt it lost none of its impact for being fiction, rather than pure fact.

And historian Joseph Ellis is still selling books, even though he was caught lying about his non-existent military career. Does he have the credibility he did ten years, though?

Why do people do this? I can understand a writer clicketing away on the PC, losing sight of what's real and what isn't. I can, seriously.

What boggles my mind is when that writer gets up and leaves the computer screen's glow for broad daylight, signs contracts, accepts checks, and somehow decides that in the 21st century, they can lie about their identity and get away with it. That they can be in the national newspapers and no one will call their bluff. That they are teflon, and the career they've worked so hard to build will withstand the charges of "cheat."

When I read their tearful apologies, the words don't seem like blatant dishonesty so much as immaturity. They got carried away; they really didn't expect consequences. Quite ironic in Selzer's case, given the title of her book.

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