It seems hard to believe. Just last week, readers around the world were rocked by the discovery that Misha Defonseca, author of “Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years,” created her “memoir” out of whole cloth.
She apparently did not survive the Holocaust by roaming through Europe and living with wolves. Instead, Ms. Defonseca (who, it turns out, is not Jewish, although her parents were arrested for resisting Hitler) spent the war years safely in Brussels.
Then, yesterday, we wake up to find out that Margaret B. Jones, author of “Love and Consquences,” also purported to be a “memoir,” invented her story as well.
Instead of having grown up half white and half native American living with a foster family in South-Central Los Angeles, it turns out that Ms. Jones (who is all white) lived with her biological family in a comfortable LA suburb and attended private school.
What brought Jones’s lie to light was a New York Times story about her. After reading it, her sister called the paper to tell them it was all a pack of lies.
What is particularly stunning about the Jones case is the ease with which her lies could have been uncovered. In the case of Defonseca, questions of veracity had arisen, but they were not easily resolved.
In the case of Jones, one or two phone calls should have/could have pretty easily exposed the truth. The New York Times, for its part, told her story without asking a single question of anyone else – as always, beware the single-source story!
Perhaps the good news will be that from now on no publisher will fail to take at least the easy steps in an effort the verify author’s “true” stories.
Another positive development would be a tailing off of the flood of “memoirs” that we all seem to be reading nowadays. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m starting to get my fill. How about a few really good novels instead?