Wednesday, February 22, 2006

John Grogan wrote a very funny column on fake memoirs arguing that his own best-selling memoir Marley & Me was actually faked. This made me wonder what everyone else thinks of faking memoirs and/or biographies in publishing.
If you have been busy studying you may have missed the Oprah show where she praised James Frey and his "memoir" A Million Little Pieces and then the show where she lambasted him for lying about events in his memoir - making some things up or vastly exaggerating others.
About a month ago the New York Times had an article about J. T. LeRoy. LeRoy sold himself as a former child abuse victim (I don't know how young my readership is so I will leave it at that. The description of the abuse he allegedly suffered was very graphic.) who only managed to survive through the kindness of a couple, Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop. (Knoop's first name may be something else.) The novels that LeRoy wrote were gritty and the publisher claimed that they were "semi-autobiographical." Well, the NYTimes article said that J.T. LeRoy does not exist. The novels were written by Laura Albert and Knoop's younger sister wore a disguise to appear as LeRoy at book signings.
Here are some questions to think about.
Would these books have sold if there was not a suffering author attached to them? Would they ever have made it out of the slush pile? What does that say about the publishing world? What does it say about American readers?
Since the LeRoy books are fiction, does it matter whether we believe the personna the author has created for herself?
Author's have written under pen names for centuries. What's the difference here?
Can you think of other books with authors who made fraudulent claims about themselves?
And how would you feel after reading a book that was supposed to be true if you found out it was mostly a lie?
Does Lemony Snicket fit in here?
I'd like to read any comments you might have about this.

Also, if you could make up a persona, what would it be? This one is strictly for fun.

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