Switch to Desktop Site
 
 

Memoirs: whose truth – and does it matter?

Next Previous

Page 2 of 5

About these ads

But memoir has also suffered a string of high-profile scandals, beginning in 2006 when the website The Smoking Gun found "wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details" in James Frey's memoir, "A Million Little Pieces." This year, author Misha Defonseca admitted that her widely read "Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years," was a fake: Ms. Defonseca lived in Brussels during World War II, is not Jewish, and was not raised by wolves. Then in March, Margaret Seltzer said she had manufactured "Love and Consequences," a crit­ically acclaimed tale of gang life in South Central Los Angeles.

"Fiction has lost its allure because of this primitive belief that memoir is more worthy, more authentic," says Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology and journalism at Columbia University, and author of the memoir "The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage." At the same time, he says, "The bubble of a wholly reliable reminiscence has burst."

That paradox is central to the future of the memoir, say authors, booksellers, and publishers. Though the form has undoubtedly lost some of its luster, memoir sales will likely continue to rise over the next few years, spurred by what Mr. Gitlin calls a search for "authenticity." Since 1999, sales in the biography-and-memoir category have grown from $170 million to $270 million, according to the annual Bowker Industry Report.

Booksellers at Powell's Books, the independent chain in Oregon – where fabulist Margaret Seltzer is currently living – say recent author transgressions have had little effect on the way they purchase or market memoirs.

Next Previous

Page 2 of 5

Share