I told myself last time this happened that I would not post again about debunked "memoirs," but then this newest one really put me over the edge. Like the first major not-a-memoir, this one was touted by Oprah (even before its release), which is now in question.
I just want to make one point. Or a few. There's coincidence, the "can't make this stuff up" kind of wonderful, ridiculous but true coincidence which drives many good (and real) memoirs, and then there's preposterously contrived "coincidences" which smell and act like fiction – because they are.
Yes, sometimes the most circumspect nonfiction writers must elaborate beyond what they precisely can prove, such as inventing likely dialogue which can vivify actual events at which one was not present or was too young or impaired to precisely recall. But that's different than completely making up events which the author absolutely knows never to have occurred, and then injecting them into an "otherwise" true account, simply because it will make for more compelling reading (and book sales, and film rights).
I'm thinking the publishing industry needs a new category, just to keep things clear. Fictionish Memoir? Memoirish fiction? Memtion? Fictoir? Hey, I’m only half-kidding.
Here's what actually bothers me most: As a nonfiction writer, I have deep admiration for my fiction writing colleagues, and regard writing fiction as a far more difficult creative literary endeavor. So if one day I ever were to try to publish my (currently very fledgling) fiction, I'm thinking I'd be honored to call it just that -- fiction.
And hey, if you think you want to be a memoirist, but it turns out you can't keep yourself from throwing in made-up stuff, then maybe you are actually a novelist instead, so why not call it a novel? Go ahead, write it in first person if you like, and please do toss in anything that's verifiably true (don't all first novels do this anyway?), but please don't call it NONfiction. Or memoir. Or, please God, especially not creative nonfiction.
Update: In the New York Times, Motoko Rich and Brian Stelter, include this quote:
“It’s a little disturbing that this is happening so often, and as an industry we need to get our act together,” said Morgan Entrekin, president of the publisher Grove/Atlantic.
Comments? I'm always interested in what others think about this topic.
Certainly, industry observers wondered how editors at Berkley and producers for Ms. Winfrey did not at least question the veracity of Mr. Rosenblat’s story, given some improbable details. In the book, he wrote not only that he reunited with his wife in New York years after she threw apples to him over the fence, but also that he had actually gone on a blind date with her in Israel a few years earlier but did not recognize her when he met her again.
“You’d think somebody would say, ‘Hmm, that’s amazing, let’s just spend an hour or a day seeing how plausible that is,’ ” said Kurt Andersen, the novelist and host of the public radio program “Studio 360.”