POLL: Why Do We Keep Publishing Fake Memoirists?

By Neal Comment

margaret-jones-fakememoir.jpgAt the tail end of last week, we found out that Holocaust memoirist Misha Defonseca was a fraud, albeit one who justified making up a life story about being sheltered by a pack of wolves while on the run from the Nazis by saying it was “my reality, my way of surviving” whatever actually did happen to her during the Second World War. Now the New York Times is reporting that Margaret B. Jones made her memoir up, too, because Love and Consequences was “my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don’t listen to,” as if nobody had ever written a memoir about life in South Central Los Angeles before 2007.

Which, although the Times doesn’t mention it outright, has got to be doubly awkward for her publisher, Riverhead, since they were also the publishers of James Frey‘s My Friend Leonard. (Notice, by the way, the shift in dealing with the fallout: Frey’s book, like A Million Little Pieces, probably had its natural half-life on bookstore shelves prolonged by the notoriety; Jones—or Peggy Seltzer, if you prefer—gets a total recall and a cancelled book tour.) The sad thing is, if the story Seltzer’s now telling the Times about her social work is true, her editor, Sarah McGrath, is absolutely right in saying “there was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as compelling.”

“Amazing how we keep getting duped by these sociopaths,” an anonymous commenter emailed me last night. “Are we all such suckers for a good story or is this just a risk we run by publishing memoirs?” Good question!

Meanwhile, FishbowlLA works the local angle, noting that Seltzer/Jones went to the same private school as the Olsen twins and that an academic study of Native American culture by Prof. Gordon Sayre thanks “Peggy Seltzer of the Quinault nation” in the acknowledgments…