I’ve never been a big fan of modern memoirs. These days, it seems that most of what populates the nonfiction bestseller lists veers toward the treacly or the titillating–pop-culture confessionals that celebrate victimhood as virtue or parade the worst kind of bad taste. Honestly, why would anyone plunk down their hard-earned cash to delve into Paris Hilton’s sex life? Well, obviously there’s a market for it, otherwise publishers wouldn’t be offering handsome advances for these tell-all books.
Don’t get me wrong–as an author, I firmly believe that if you can make money on your story then more power to ya. But as the recent episode with James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces shows, there’s a real danger in offering too much incentive to tell a juicy tale. Nor is Frey the only one to sell fiction as his life story. He just happens to be the example du jour, caught in the act of lying to Oprah. If he hadn’t peddled his wares on her show, he might well have stayed under the radar.
All of which raises an uncomfortable point: Just how far have we blurred the line between fact and fiction? In an age where “emotional truth” trumps reality, how can anyone be sure of anything? The fact is, we’re all at the mercy of these authors to give us the real deal–including the editors who work on their books and the publishers that distribute them. Given the present media climate, I think the best we can do–as with all forms of media–is take everything with a hearty grain of salt. If a guy’s life sounds too outrageous to be true, it probably is.
Hate to boil it all down to caveat emptor for the reader, but there you have it.Share