Make That Fifty-One Percent

Yet another article about the problem of memoirs helps prove Jessa Crispin’s contention that “Fifty percent of all books coverage these days is, ‘Who is telling the truth?’ ” (“Memoirs: Whose Truth — and Does It Matter,” by Matthew Shaer and Teresa Mendez, Christian Science Monitor).  But it’s worth reading anyway:

She points to Augusten Burroughs, whose memoir, “Running with Scissors,” has been subjected to particularly intense scrutiny following a string of allegations. “It’s a constant rehashing,” says Crispin. “Now, when people think of memoir, they begin to associate it with lying.”

David Sedaris, who estimates the truthiness, or realishness, of his forthcoming When You Are Engulfed in Flames at “97 percent,” thinks we’re not seeing things in correct proportion:

“What’s interesting to me,” he says, “is that we live in a time when our government is telling us some pretty profound lies. And then James Frey writes a book and it turns out some of it’s not true. No one asked for their vote back, but everyone wanted back the money they’d spent on that book. We’re in the shadow of huge lies and getting angry about the small ones.”

Speak for yourself, Sedaris. I’m mad as hell about the huge lies, and only somewhat angry about the small ones. And while keeping a sense of proportion is important, isn’t it important that everyone tell the truth, politicians and authors alike? And if fudging some facts is important to achieve a larger truth, fine: just tell us you’re doing it.*

*This option not available to politicians.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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