07 March 2008

Love and Consequences

Many readers will no doubt remember James Frey, the best-selling memoirist whose work, "A Million Little Pieces," turned out to be a packet of lies, uncovered as such only after Oprah Winfrey made a fool of herself rushing to his defense.

In recent days, two more so-called memoirs have turned out to be as false as Frey's, (or as those of his South Park counterpart, Towlie).

There was Mischa Defonseca, author of "Mischa: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years." This was first published in France (and in French) eleven years ago. It made a huge splash, and was translated into 18 languages. Unfortunately, it was tommyrot. Mischa did have a compelling story to tell, had she only stuck to telling it. Her parents were members of the Belgian resistance and they were killed by the Nazis.

But neither they nor she were Jewish, as her 'memoir' presumes. And she did not, in their absence, revert to a feral condition, which is the gist of the book's plot. She was, rather, taken in by her grandfather and lived out the war in relative comfort.

"She belonged to a very good family and lived in the most beautiful house on the street," an old acquaintance has said.

These lies took time to unravel. But on leap day, February 29, Mischa fessed up.

But even that's not the latest one. And here we return to Oprah. For Ms Winfrey has expressed enthusiasm over LOVE AND CONSEQUENCES, a supposedly autobiographical tale of a gal who grew up running drugs for the gangs in the 'hood, in south central L.A., written by one Margaret B. Jones.

On Tuesday, March 4, the publisher recalled 19,000 copies of the book -- all apparently destined for paper recycling -- as Ms Jones turned out to be Margaret Seltzer, a well-to-do product of the San Fernando Valley, not of southcentral anywhere. Gag me with a spoon.

The title, "Love and Consequences" is a piece of art in itself. Those of us who love the non-fiction memoir as a genre are now doomed to face the consequence of such fraud -- we never know when we're reading one.

Oh times, Oh morals, Oh Oprah!

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.