Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Truth" turns out to be fiction

In the Boston Globe article, "Liar, liar, bestseller on fire," author Steve Almond examines the possible reasoning behind the recent "I made it up" memoir confessions of Margaret Seltzer (Love and Consequences) and Misha Defonseca (Misa: A Memoire of the Haulocaust Years). Almond examines the validity behind Seltzer's statement to The New York Times that she was driven to deceit. She said, "I just felt that there was good that I could do and there was no other way that someone would listen to it."

Almond suggests there's truth to Seltzer's seemingly ridiculous statement because today's declining book readership demands "ripped from the headlines" memoirs and editors are pressured to respond by supplying readers with what they want. According to Almond, editors don't believe fiction can supply the sensationalism of a "true" story, hence they jump to print author survival stories because "such books are 100 times more likely to get reviewed and featured on National Public Radio and anoited by Oprah."

Was nothing learned when thousands of readers returned their copies of "A Million Little Pieces," after author James Frey admitted that he made up portions of his bestselling memoir. Some readers went as far as to initiate legal action. Doesn't that tell the publishing community and memoir fakers that people want to support a tragic hero, not a liar?

I don't buy into the rationale that it's necessary to turn fiction into fact in order to get noticed or as Ms. Seltzer said, "do good." (The irony of that statement could launch a novel itself.) I also don't buy into the popular notion that sensationalism for profit is an excuse to tolerate subterfuge and downright dishonesty. The publishers get little sympathy from me for not checking facts before racing to get the next bestselling survival story on shelves.

My previous post discussed the power we hold as writers. With that power comes responsibility. In 4Ps to Publishing Success, I devote an entire chapter to developing an authentic voice and establishing a bond of trust with the audience. Authentic writing stems from the desire to share the insights we've gleaned with others and leave the world a slightly better place for our efforts.

Let's wield the power of the pen, but do it responsibly. Our purpose is connect and make a difference, not just a profit at any cost.

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