My longtime friend Ms. Pope commented recently, “What do you think of the recent memoirs that were found to be fabricated?” I had been thinking and reading columns about the bogus memoirs, and her question spurred on me to write more. My brain was percolating last night as I listened to On Point discuss the topic as I drove home alone. On Point is an NPR show recorded in Boston; they were hoaxed on Friday by the most recent false memoirist (Margaret B. Jones, aka Margaret Seltzer), and they focused Wednesday’s show on the repercussions.
As a book reviewer, I’m on the fringes of the publishing world, but I see the sheer quantity of memoirs and novels published; the information in Wednesday’s On Point helped me understand how a bogus memoir could make its way into print, as most publishers don’t do in-depth fact checks, they trust the author. Copy-editing is performed to ensure accuracy enough to avoid libel, but one would think the publisher could double check that the author’s basic identity and story is accurate as well. I wish Margaret Seltzer/Jones had written her “memoir” as fiction, as it sounds like an engrossing book that would fit beside the wonderful novels of fictionalized reality, True to the Game I & II. But because she lied and cheated, we won’t have the opportunity to read the book as a novel. As I was looking into falsified memoirs, nothing has explained my burning question: why would someone write fiction and publish it as if it was a factual memoir?
I am disappointed and appalled that an author would do this, and it boggles my mind that anyone would try to sell a false memoir as fact. I can completely understand why someone would want to be published, and that if the memoir market is hot, authors aim for publication in the hot market. However, I can’t understand why someone would risk everything by lying so profoundly about their lives, with the hubris of believing they wouldn’t get caught, when in truth it was relatively easy to disprove their story. Read more