Medicine for Memoir Scandals: Truth or Consequences for Margaret Seltzer, aka Margaret B. Jones, and others suffering from genre confusion

Stacks of Books with Globe

Tracking the Fallout of (Another) Literary Fraud By MOTOKO RICH

Click here to read about the author of “Love and Consequences” who confessed she “made up the memoir about her supposed life as a foster child in gang-infested South-Central Los Angeles, the focus turned to her publisher and the news organizations that helped publicize what appeared to be a searing autobiography.”

Seltzer is following in the steps of the likes of James Frey and Laura Albert (aka J.T. Leroy—who turns out to be more of a drama troupe)…and too many others to name here.
See Slate’s round-up by clicking here.

Memorist might like to consult Guardian columnist Levi Asher published guidance for authors about how to avoid memoir scandals by clicking here.

What I forsee, since there have been such a rush of these memoir hoaxes accreting over the past two years is that the field is ripe for a book on this subject, bringing them all together. It’s not my book, but the book is out there, and we’ll be seeing it sometime soon.

The big question most memoir writers and readers ask, is “why?” Is it a marketing issue that writers think their work will sell more as memoir rather than positioning it as fiction straight-up first time around?

Is it linked-in to the reality show craze? Is there something in the American water supply? What’s happening to us as a culture that’s leading writers to take these desperado courses of action?

A sensible book explaining and defining genre categories and many other issues serious memoirist fret over is Judith Barrington’s Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art. I cannot recommend it strongly enough:


By Judith Barrington
Published by The Eighth Mountain Press
ISBN 0-933377-50-9, trade paperback, $14.95
The bestselling book on writing memoir, now in its second edition with over 100,000 copies sold.

This is by far the best book on memoir writing I’ve ever read in that it is the most sensible.

Memoirist will find great advice on all manner issues we fret about in these pages. It’s such a classic it’s likely to be in your local library, so check there first, but you may well want it in your personal library and it’s not very expensive.

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