Saturday, March 8, 2008

Memoir Fraud

I found this article to be very intriguing. John Dolan discusses fabricated memoirs and why people feel compelled to write them and read them. It is a fairly provocative and uncomfortable article in some of its points, and I do find him to be a bit sanctimonious in his condemnation of "middle-class " readers and people who watch TV for escapism.

It got me thinking, however, about the lines between truth and fiction, and how our categorization of literature into different genres has a lot of implications for "artistic license." There are plenty of works masquerading as fiction that are actually memoirs. Is claiming something to be fabricated when it is in fact true any better than falsifying a memoir? I'm not sure. It is a different kind of dishonesty--one that is probably less hurtful to the reader. Yes, I know that fiction will often draw upon the life experiences of the author, but when you can identify real-life people (who are still living) in a fictional work, I think that needs to be addressed. The disclaimer one finds in fiction, about any resemblance of the characters to real and living persons being coincidental, is there for a reason. It exists because too often the connections are not coincidental and are an opportunity for the author to air dirty laundry under the safety net of "fiction."


John Michael De Marco said...

Wow, i just today realized that you had this whole separate blog! I tend to understand books a little more than the finer nuances of musicology, so this is very cool for me. By the way, my spiritual memoir series that I am writing is all true!!!

raych said...

Hmm. I never thought of that. I tend to RAGE against authors who set fiction up as truth (especially when, like the notorious Mr Frey, they can't actually write), but I'd never thought about hiding truth in fiction as a form of deception. Very interesting article.

Rebecca said...

John: Thanks for stopping by! I have no doubt that your memoir will be ethically produced and a wonderful read! I can't wait.

Raych: It is a topic that hits somewhat close to home for me, so I'm sensitive to the inclusion of truth in fiction. False memoirs, however, are pretty low. If I end up falling for it, I feel mad. If I don't, I just feel sorry for the author. Luckily my life is strange enough that I won't need to make up facts if I ever get around to writing my memoirs!!