Sex. Politics. Religion. The Holy Trinity of what not to speak with friends about if you’d like to remain friends. Eve, we've discussed all three and never disagreed. Actually, we've never disagreed about anything...until now. So why did it have to be about writing? Why writing? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please read yesterday’s post by Eve before continuing.)
To keep us on track, I promise to wrap up this post with a comment on the frustrating world of publishing. But until then, let's get into it. Lying and exaggerating in a non-fiction memoir bothers me for two reasons.
One, I feel sorry for memoirists whose books will now be questioned no matter how hard they try to keep the ‘non’ in ‘non-fiction.’ There is a very simple remedy if you plan on making things up...just let us know. Let your readers decide how much to invest emotionally in your words. I loved Rocket Boys, later made into the movie October Sky, but the disclaimer stating that the author sometimes combined several characters into one character and sometimes altered the sequence of events constantly bugged me. Fiction and non-fiction stories are about cause-and-effect. If you change the sequence of events, then I can’t really understand why something happened (which, I assume, is why most people write memoirs). But thanks for letting me know.
Two, a lot of people are claiming, "His memoir has helped a lot of people. Who has it hurt?" True, it has helped a lot of people. I know people who have quit drinking cold turkey because his novoir (get it? novel+memoir=novoir...cute, ain’t it?) scared them silly. But according to a counselor at the addiction-recovery center Mr. Frey went to, he totally lied about his experiences there. So what if someone can’t quit cold turkey and needs the help of a recovery center, yet they’re too afraid to go to one based on this book?
Okay, time to get to the frustrating world of publishing. I don’t blame Mr. Frey...much. I see him more as a victim of circumstances. He tried selling the book as a novel, even though most of it was true. Gotta give him credit for that. But when a dozen publishers rejected it, his agent suggested that they market it as a memoir because memoirs were hot. With how frustrated I’ve become trying to sell my books, I can see the temptation. And then his book sold. To take out the lies and exaggerations at that point would have meant admitting to the publisher that they bought a book with lies and exaggerations...and apparently that’s only okay if you host a top-rated cable news talk show. [NEWSFLASH: I just learned that the above novel-turned-memoir story appearing in Time, Newsweek, and other publications to win the author sympathy were a lie. This guy can’t stop lying...even now! Dude, you're gonna get caught. What a great person to write a non-fiction book, right? So I won’t defend him anymore. The guy’s a jerk.]
Eve, this wasn’t personal, so go easy on me in your memoirs. And if you need to exaggerate, can I at least have approval on the ones about me?