One-Minute Book Reviews

March 7, 2008

This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:31 pm
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And This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

A “startlingly tender memoir.”
– The March issue of O, the Oprah Magazine on Love and Consequences by Margaret Seltzer writing as Margaret B. Jones

And, as we learned this week, startlingly fake. This quote might have qualified even if Seltzer hadn’t admitted that she made up the book. Why should it “startling” that a book about gang life has tender scenes? Didn’t we see lots of those on The Sopranos?

www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/arts/2008/03/05/2008-03-05_oprahs_mag_gushed_over_memoir_of_fake_ga-1.html

Thanks to Larry McShane of the New York Daily News for an article on this one that has a quote from Amy Gross, editor-in-chief of O, acknowledging that the book “should have been classified as fiction.”

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. A new Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing appears every Friday along with any other posts that appear that day.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

March 6, 2008

Newly Exposed Fake Holocaust Memoir Shows ‘Narcissistic Disregard for the Suffering of Actual Jews’ — Another Reason to Read Defensively

Filed under: Memoirs,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:30 pm
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Love and Consequences isn’t the only memoir just exposed as a fake. Last week Misha Defonseca admitted she made up Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years (Mt. Ivy, 1997). Blake Eskin has a good story about it in Slate www.slate.com/id/2185493/, which says the book got a blurb from Elie Wiesel. The AP reported that Defonseca said through her lawyers: “This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving.” Defonseca claimed to have been a Jewish child who, aided by wolves, wandered through Europe looking for her deported parents. In fact, her parents were Belgian Catholic resistance fighters killed by the Nazis and she just “felt Jewish.” Eskin rightly argues in Slate that her pain doesn’t justify a book that shows “narcissistic disregard for the suffering of actual Jews.”

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 5, 2008

What Responsibility Do Editors Have for Keeping Fake Memoirs Off the Market?

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:58 pm
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Does the publishing industry need New Yorker-style fact checking or just more common sense?

What responsibility do editors have for keeping potentially fake memoirs off the market? An article in today’s New York Times has a telling comment on this from Nan Talese, who edited James Frey‘s memoir A Milllion Little Pieces, a lot of which the author admits he exaggerated or made up www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/books/05fake.html. Talese makes the observation in the Times‘s second-day report on the furor over Love and Consequences, a fabricated memoir by Margaret Seltzer writing under the name of Margaret B. Jones:

“I think what editors are going to have to do is point to the things that happened recently and say to their authors, ‘If there is anything in your book that can be discovered to be untrue, you better let us know right now, and we’ll deal with it before we publish it.’”

To which Ron Hogan at Galley Cat responds: “Like how about not publishing it? Or at least not calling it a memoir?” www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/authors/but_margaret_jones_promised_it_was_true_79038.asp. Hogan knows it’s a facile response (though it’s no less sensible for it). But he doesn’t agree with Talese that it would be insulting to authors to introduce New Yorker-style fact checking to book publishing.

“If you’re insulted that somebody’s holding your nonfiction writing up to a simple standard of truth,” he writes, “you’re probably not ready to share that writing with anybody, let alone an editor.”

Hogan is right. But there’s a middle ground between the laissez-faire attitude that currently prevails in book publishing and the exhaustive New Yorker–style fact-checking that some would like to see the industry use. That middle ground lies in the system used at responsible newspapers: Most newspapers don’t have fact-checkers on staff, but their editors question writers much more aggressively than many book editors do. You could say: They just use more common sense.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

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