I don’t have much to add to the voices chattering on about James Frey or “JT Leroy.”
Both come off as performance artists to me. Of the two I’d say the Leroy fraud is more appalling to me in the sense that he/she/they took advantage of many supporters who were there for “JT” for reasons totally unrelated to literature. It’s the same kind of fraud as practiced by those folks down the hill in Sacramento who pretended to be from New Orleans in order to scarf up on the relief funds.
Re Frey, I’m surprised that Oprah defended him on Larry King. I thought that authenticity was her hallmark. If I were Oprah, I’d be pissed.
A Million Little Pieces is number two on Amazon’s bestseller list as I write this, so the controversy hasn’t seemed to hurt sales yet.
The deeper problem for publishers and authors is that many other modern memoirists now become suspect.
It’s a shame, but in fact the list of literary pranks and liars is quite long.
Remember Hitler’s Diary? Howard Hughes’s autobiography?
Fraud of a different sort caught my eye last week, something that’s probably more insidious and dangerous than “memoir fiction” or imaginary authors: science fraud and fudging aided and abetted by Photoshop.
Perhaps everything we read and every picture we see should come with a disclaimer.