Another Publishing Industry Scandal: “Margaret B. Jones” and Love and Consequences — Do we need to review the difference between fiction and nonfiction here, people? Fiction is something that didn’t actually happen, whereas nonfiction is true or real. If you write a book that didn’t actually happen, it’s fiction. Please forward this memo to James Frey, Margaret Seltzer, Misha Defonseca, and Laura Albert, four people who clearly don’t get the difference between these two classes of writing.

Seltzer, who published the so-called memoir Love and Consequences under the pen name Margaret B. Jones, claimed to be a half-white, half-Native American foster kid who grew up in South Central amid gang bangers and drug dealers and survived against all odds. Great story, except that it’s not true. Sheesh, people. Shame on you, Ms. Seltzer, for misrepresenting yourself, and shame on Riverhead Books for not picking up the flipping telephone and doing a little background checking. After James Frey, there is no excuse! If something is being presented as a memoir, you’d better make darn sure there’s some iota of truth to it. Um, duh?

Read about it here:

What do you think about this recent trend in presenting fiction as fact? Why aren’t these authors just submitting novels instead of coating their work with the patina of truth and becoming publicly humiliated big fat liars? I think there’s a difference between performing as a persona (think Larry the Cable Guy, who’s actually comedian and actor Daniel Lawrence Whitney) and pretending to be something you’re not. Do you agree or disagree?

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4 comments… add one
  • Amy Lillard Mar 5, 2008

    These are great thoughts on yet another disheartening development. I had the same reaction when I read this news item – don’t people understand fiction versus non? But I think some people believe their writing will sell more, their stories count for more, if it’s supposedly a true story. What this does is make it harder for those folks who have interesting real-life tales get noticed and get published. It makes agents and publishers wary of memoirs, and robs the public of what could be some quality reading. Very frustrating.

    Amy Lillard’s last blog post..A Fiver of Creativity- and Business-Boosting Links

  • Lori Mar 6, 2008

    Great minds think alike – I blogged this one this week, too! There’s no excuse for her sin at ALL. None. Unless she has numerous personalities we’re not privvy to, she knows the difference between real and not real.

    I think the issue boiled down to a woman who wrote a fiction story and couldn’t sell it because it was too unbelievable. So why not sell it as factual? Oh, I know – because it’s WRONG.

  • Jennifer Mar 6, 2008

    I read somewhere–I can’t find the link right now for some reason–that the publishing industry does set these authors up a bit. Sometimes these folks try to sell their fiction books and get no takers; then they pose as the actual people in the books–i.e. present them as nonfiction–and the public eats it up. The publishing industry lately seems to be more interested in “real people” whose stories they can sell to the public than good fiction. I think it’s not right to do this, but I also think it’s sad that these authors felt they had to in order to get a good story published–and that the publishing industry is more interested in dissecting somebody’s tragic life story for profit than in well-written fiction.

    Jennifer’s last blog post..Growing My Business: What’s In Store for 2008

  • Cory Mar 6, 2008

    There’s a tongue-in-cheek story about this on today:

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