Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .



I just don't get it. I mean, didn't we learn this as kids? Didn't we teach it to our own children? I'm not talking about little white lies ("No, that doesn't make your butt look too big.") or convenient ommissions ("Um, no, I hadn't heard that."). I'm talking lies. Mendacity. (Do you still swoon when Brick yells at Big Daddy about mendacity?)



Do people really think they're not going to get caught? Apparently so, but, not to be crass or anything, how flipping stupid are they? Or, perhaps, how stupid do they think the rest of us are?

Here's a newsflash to all the job applicants, memoirists, coaches, plagiarists, resume padders out there--you're going to get caught. In this whole world-wide-web life we live in, somebody's going to hear your lie and think, uh, whoa, I think not. Your sister, your ex-whomever, that guy you were rude to, the original writer. Somebody is going to take a second look at that resume and call one of your references. Somebody is going to see that article about the amazing, stunning book you wrote about your wretched/difficult/gang-filled life and say, um, yeah, I knew him/her and it's not true. And they're going to be able to prove it. See, there's this new-fangled thing out there. It's called the internet. Google. YouTube. Myspace. Colleges have websites. So do newspapers. And corporations. The military.

You're going to get caught. Bank on it.

And think back to that time you were five and your mom or grandpa or neighbor lady caught you in a lie. Didn't you feel lousy? But you were little and cute. You're not little and cute anymore. You're an adult. You're supposed to know better.

15 comments:

Larramie said...

I read this earlier in the morning and was stunned. And they worked three years with this "author," leaving me to wonder IF anyone is doing their job? *sigh*

Lisa said...

This is quite a fabrication! I am beginning to wonder if perhaps there is a psychological disorder emerging in our era that compels people to fictionalize and attempt to publish alternative histories for themselves. Despite the obvious question -- how in the world did the author think she'd get away with it (especially since her own sister is the one who contacted her publisher!) and how did the editor never do any diligence on this story? When I think of James Frey, JT Leroy and now this woman, I really wonder what would make someone want to exaggerate or invent a past filled with drug abuse and addiction, child prostitution, molestation and AIDS and gang activity? Is this some kind of variation on Munchausen syndrome where the authors are trying to draw sympathy and attention to themselves by inventing damaged pasts, or are these just people engaged in a calculated con to garner fame and fortune?

Carleen Brice said...

I'm with Lisa...I think in this day and age when everybody feels entitled to their 15 minutes of fame, some are willing to do anything to get there. And that willingness might either be simple vanity or it might be an illness.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Larramie--I know, who's doing due diligence? Given the plethora of these in the past few years, doesn't it seem like a no-brainer to double check some facts?

Lisa and Carleen--Perhaps it is a mental illness of some sort. I don't know, though. I mean, all three of us work really hard to create worlds that ring true, that tackle tough topics, that can make a difference. But we're honest about it--we call it fiction.

Lisa said...

I guess that other thing that fascinates me about this is that I have the utmost respect for those who choose to write memoir. They are braver souls than I and even if I had a compelling enough life story to write about(which I don't), I never would. I'm too private. A big chicken. I couldn't imagine my life literally being an open book and allowing the world to examine and question me and those around me. I salute those who have that kind of courage, but I'm not one of them. Fabricating memoir means that not only are you opening your "story" up to scrutiny, you're willfully entering a greater world of lies perpetuated in the form of interviews and reviews. I think Carleen's onto something with the 15 minutes of fame. Our priorities have gotten really out of whack when people feel like they NEED to be famous.

Misque Writer said...

Even more disturbing is the thought that perhaps there are fake memoirs out there that weren't caught.

Bev Marshall said...

Lisa's point is the arrow that shoots to the heart. I've just completed revising a memoir (revision #3) because in drafts 1 and 2 I couldn't bring myself to be so personal, to tell painful things about my life. I wonder if she cried false tears writing this, too. I used up a box of tissues and I resent the hell outta someone faking it. And, Judy, love the Cat photo. We'll toast you at the Tennessee Williams Festival this year.

Julie Layne said...

The thing that galls me is similar to what Bev said. What if I had wasted a box of tissues crying over this fake story? If I know it's fiction and cry (ahem, Judy), I am astounded at the writer's gift. If I read a memoir and cry, then findo it was faked (eg., James Frey), I am mad, mad, mad that I wasted tears I could have saved for someone's true sorrow.

And didn't she think someone might RECOGNIZE her on her book tour? LOL

Julie Layne said...

find out ... :-) oops

April said...

Wow, I dont know what happened (if you posted about something else that caused this post, I haven't read it yet) but wow. And you're right. It's that way in our professional lives as well as in our personal lives. Don't people have a conscience? Isn't there something deep inside of everybody warning you, shouting at you even in a quiet voice, that what you're doing is wrong? That it's wrong to make up things about your past, that there's no way you can get away with it, that even if you did get away with it, God will hold you accountable. (not you, you, collective you of course) I don't know, but you got me all riled up now even though I've never really been in that situation.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Misque Writer--It's just so wrong--the liars hurt everyone and I don't think they care one whit.

Bev--i thought of you when I first heard about this. It's got to make you livid that someone could willingly lie and in the process, hurt those of you who have dug so deep to find the truths of your lives and share them with the rest of us. Selfishly, though, I'm glad you've finished another rewrite. And I can't wait to get my hands on it. We'll miss you in NOLA--hopefully in 2009!

Julie--Amen. And, I too am thinking, did she think no one would notice her?

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

April, click on "memoirists"--that'll take you to the NYT link.

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

I blogged about this today too, Judy! (Great minds, etc., etc.)

My point, though - although, yes, of course, don't lie, you'll get caught - is that I think this more reflects the state of fiction today. In that - it doesn't sell nearly as much as nonfiction does, and editors know this, and I think there's pressure for authors to repackage themselves as the story, rather than just - tell the story.

If we weren't a culture that wasn't obsessed with "reality" - TV, memoirs, etc. - rather than being able to appreciate fiction and art, I don't think this would be so much of an issue, in other words.

debra said...

I don't get it either. Wrong is wrong, right? Why not call it what it is, a fiction piece. Shaking my head.......

steve said...

When Kenneth Rexroth published his autobiography in 1964, this publisher insisted that it be called "An Autobiographical Novel" for fear of lawsuits.

The first time I noticed a tendency to invent things in a memoir was Jonathan Raban's "Old Glory: An American Voyage," (1981)in which he said that a bar in Davenport Iowa was surrounded by a wall with broken glass protruding from the top. He made it up.

Things have gotten worse. If James Frey had just called his "memoir" a novel, he probably still would have had a bestseller.