avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters October 24, 2013 - 10:11am

Books that have lied to you.  (Read this article, or skim, whatever)

Do you care?  At all?  Or is it just about the story?

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On October 24, 2013 - 10:22am

Don't care. I have a lower threshold for falsity when it comes to third-person biographies; a certain level of fact-checking is required. But I pretty much expect anything between covers to essentially be BS, especially autobiographies. I merely suspend disbelief, and enjoy.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 24, 2013 - 10:53am

I've been meaning to pick up from the library THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE, a Cherokee memoir written by the author of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES and also he's a white supremacist. Supposedly it's a good book, though.

I don't particularly care if a book lies, I find it more curious than enraging. But not that curious, really.

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff October 24, 2013 - 12:59pm

Essays are the big liars. All busy trying to convince you of their Great Truth.

And I buy into it cause my mind goes straight to said suspension of disbelief mode by default, when I open a book. Too bad it lasts only two minutes when the style is iffy. Like stale thorazine or so.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 24, 2013 - 2:58pm

I don't think memoir has to be 100% accurate, following the chronological order of events, without any room for the deception of the author's memory and/or creative license to get the point across (because I think the real difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that one is someone prattling on about everything they've ever done, and one is an author's attempt to get to the point of their experiences). I do, however, think it's pretty crappy when a book is marketed as a memoir but is fabricated, a great example is the book Three Cups Of Tea. Mortensen didn't just lie about the events of his life, but used those falsified events to con people out of money "to build schools", but that he was using to do whatever the hell he wanted with. I also think James Frey is another exampe of a harmful falsified memoir. People bought into his phoenix like recovery from the darkest depths of drug abuse, and many people who had experience with loved ones (or themselves) were not just looking to the story in the book, but the story of how this man became something after going through so much, as a source of inspiration.

Of course, Henry Rollins said of Frey, "You know what junkies do when they're not shooting up? THEY LIE."
Which, of course, is true. But when a memoir touches a large amount of people, a part of that appeal is that it really happened. A real person went through this, and the reader not only gets to connect with that person, but be inspired by them. If the memoir isn't based in reality, the story doesn't connect the same way. That's just facts. I don't think it's wrong to be irritated when people call something truth and it's complete fabrication, especially if a majority of people paid money for it based on how it was marketed.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons October 24, 2013 - 7:45pm

Well there was that whole controversy over Thousand Little Pieces, a fabulously written book presented as non-fiction, but then turned out it wasn't true. It didn't bother me so much. If he has posed it as fiction it would have been just as good and no controversy.    Bothered Oprah though. 

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff October 25, 2013 - 3:11am

There are marketing tactics involved.

Huxley wrote (and probably not just him) that fiction is the only honest account of reality one can find. First of all, it doesn't mistify readers with claims of real facts. And then, because characters and settings are invented, a fiction writer has the freedom to touch every argument in the world because no one will be offended by seeing his or her name attached to possibly disturbing narrations.

With memoir, even if you change the names, there will always be folks trying to match characters to acquaintances and situations. That is very limiting to a writer, but memoir sells because readers think they will find real facts in there.

The roman à clef form is a pretty clever solution around this issue, in my opinion. But, as I tend to prefer straightforward approaches to lame ones, pure fiction stays my favorite and most reliable device.


KarenRunge's picture
KarenRunge from South Africa is reading Blindness October 27, 2013 - 7:55pm

I have no problem with a little creative license when it comes to oneself (you take the consequences) but I draw the line at people like Beatrice Sparks.  'Go Ask Alice' was one thing (kept Anonymous, there's no harm there and it's a compelling read, and I think it did a lot of good in terms of exposing people to the inner horrors of drug addiction) but she also wrote a book called 'Jay's Journal', where Jay was easily identifiable in his town and surrounding area.  And she embellished everywhere.  And then lied without flinching.  His family and friends, and those who lived in his community, were left to deal with that in a very real sense. 

Personally, I feel a few tweaks here and there can add to the fun.  Lying outright is unnecessary, and can make people feel duped -- but it depends on what it's all aiming to do.  But doing either of these with other people's lives is pretty darn criminal.


JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life October 27, 2013 - 8:49pm

I loved Papillon. And you can never take that away from me Avery, you heartless wench!

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 27, 2013 - 9:28pm

I've read true crime books that turned out to be total bullshit, kind of pissed me off.  If I'm reading something to find out what happened, margins of error within memory are one thing.  Total ridiculous fabrications?  I'll watch the nightly news if I want that.  (Spoiler alert, I don't watch the nightly news!)

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne October 28, 2013 - 3:14pm

I virtually never read non-fiction, and when I do, it tends to be more scholarly stuff where it would be pretty tough to lie. Though I do intend to expand my horizons, and have a long list of to-read stuff that could potentially have elements of this. I guess I'll need to watch out. Though as I think about it, a bunch of the memoirs I have say something like, "Half fiction, half memoir" on them, as though the writer just wrote a novel that happens to be based more completely on their own experience than the average novel. Some truth, still a lot of fake.

I'm not okay with people lying. We can never remember everything exactly as it happened, and I certainly feel there's room for error and maybe a touch of hyperbole, but if you want to write something that isn't true, be sure to tell people. I don't even care if you only signal this with a cute little tongue-in-cheek phrase at the end of your tall tale. Just let me know you're being a little sharky and there's no foul. But try to pull the wool over my eyes, or try to con me for some cause, I will not be happy.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon October 29, 2013 - 5:40am

I still liked the book A Million Little Pieces. I didn't even have hurt feelings that it was mostly fiction.