The Fictitious Memoir – A New Genre

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There’s a new category of book—the fictitious memoir—the most recent being Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones, purporting to be by a woman claiming to have been raised in poverty by a black foster mother, who sold drugs for a gang in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. The fraud was revealed by the sister of the author, a white woman whose real name is Margaret Seltzer, who’d grown up in a prosperous area of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with her biological family, who confirmed that the memoir had been fabricated.


That scandal followed last week’s discovery that the Holocaust memoir Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, by seventy-one-year-old Misha Defonseca, was a fake. It wasn’t the first wannabee Holocaust victim book, a previous one being a chronicle by Binjamin Wilkomirski, who was stripped of the literary prize he’d been awarded for what turned out to be a fake memoir of life in a Nazi concentration camp.


Two years ago, James Frey, author of an Oprah Book Club selected memoir, A Million Little Pieces, admitted he had made up or exaggerated details about his drug addiction and recovery. O.J. Simpson’s stab at “fictitious non-fiction,” If I Did It was perhaps the most sensational of this type of faux reportage.


Esquire Magazine, it was reported in today’s New York Times, has assigned a writer to create a fictional, first-person diary of Heath Ledger’s last days, to be some sort of hybrid between truth and fantasy, a form the magazine has used in the past and expects its readers to understand.


Writers are now joining the group of politicians, suitors, and salesmen who have no qualms about blurring the line between fact and fantasy. I’m considering my entry: A Mensa model puts an end to the trafficking of women.

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