You Call it a NOVEL!!!!!

March 26, 2008 § 7 Comments


Memoir scandals show we need a new definition of ‘truth’

Are memoirs and their authors bound to tell nothing but the truth? I’ve been asking this question for years and the answer, it seems, is yes. And no.

After reading about the recalled memoir “Love and Consequences,” I gasped. The author, Margaret Jones, aka Peggy Seltzer, lives only a few miles from me, near the dingy classroom in the Lane Community College Downtown Center where I teach memoir writing one evening a week. Jones has written a complex, beautiful hoax. In my mind, it doesn’t make the writing any less complex or beautiful. What I don’t know is what to call it.

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§ 7 Responses to You Call it a NOVEL!!!!!

  • Andi says:

    The heading says it all – what a “novel” idea that what is fictional is a novel. Wouldn’t Henry Fielding be proud?

  • Tumblewords says:

    Novel sounds fine to me. Non-fiction, probably not. Enhanced non-fiction, maybe.

  • marcys says:

    They should be called novels, all these fake memoirs. The reason the authors lie is because it is so much easier to get a memoir published by an unknown than a novel these days; people want to read memoirs, like they want to watch reality tv. It’s a heinous, lying, thieving, terrible thing these writers are doing.

    –From a writer who used to write novels, and is now writing a (REAL) memoir.

  • Enhanced nonfiction? More like debased. Your title says it all.

  • Kate Flaherty says:

    I completely agree that this book, like Frey’s, should be called a novel. There’s a definite difference between compressing timelines, or changing names to protect people, or attempting to recreate dialogue for an actual event, and outright lying and deceit. No matter how difficult publishing is, there’s no excuse for authors trying to pass off these lies as truth. Memoir, like memory, is far from perfect, but there’s no excuse for calling these outright fabrications “embellished” memoir or autobiography. And how crazy must these writers be to think they could get away with their lies? And how desperate must these editors and publishers be to not check up on their sources? Did none of these editors need signed releases? I don’t get it.

  • dootz says:

    “Jones has written a complex, beautiful hoax. In my mind, it doesn’t make the writing any less complex or beautiful.”

    I don’t know.

    I’d prefer a statue with a few visible flaws to one with wax sealing the cracks and passed off as a perfect work of art. The difference is sincerity. And I think to have successful writing, you have to have a covenant with the reader that what you’re delivering is sincere.

    No wax.

  • Bill says:

    A personal pet peeve of mine: composite characters in “nonfiction.” I’ve seen some pretty ethos-laden people claim this is okay.

    I don’t understand the logic.

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