Monday, March 3, 2008

Probably not loving the consequences

I just read in the New York Times that yet another memoir has turned out to be a fake. A 33-year-old woman from a good neighborhood in LA pitched a story to publishing houses about her upbringing as a half-White, half-Native American gang-banger in South Central LA. After reading an interview about the book (titled Love and Consequences), the author's sister called the publisher to inform them that their off-the-streets star was all-White and all full of crap.

I can't believe it took them that long to realize this story wasn't true. After all the steps publishers took to protect themselves after James Frey's lies blew up in his face, you would think they could take the time to do the minimal research and find out where this woman came from.

It's fascinating how many people a) want to write memoirs and b) think their lives are actually interesting enough to merit a read by others. Memoir is one of the fastest growing categories in publishing and it has a lot to do with people believing that true-life dramas are better than anything a novelist could create, because after all, they really happened. Except when they didn't.

Would it be as satisfying to read a book like The Glass Castle if it was a novel? I mean, anybody could make that stuff up, right? If Eat, Pray, Love were a novel, the way Liz Gilbert's life falls so meaningfully into place after such a traumatic beginning would just seem like an author's gimmick to achieve the happy ending.

But if your life simply isn't interesting enough to write a mesmerizing and moving memoir, do the reading public and your publisher a favor. Pitch them fiction. It may not sell as well as nonfiction, but at least you can save yourself the embarrassment of being added to the list of authors who faked their own lives.


Joe said...

In your very own city, chef Robert Irvine has had his cooking show on the Food Network canceled because he embellished his resume. Turns out he didn't cook for the royal family or any presidents.
The interesting thing is, these deceptions would work if the people involved don't get famous. If they had higher expectations to begin with, they'd be more careful.

Brooke Warner said...

For the record, I think The Glass Castle should have been fiction. I bet there's a lot of memoirs that should be categorized as fiction, or would be, if we were to dig a little deeper.