Other literary frauds
January 10, 2006 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Hot on the heels of the JT Leroy and James Frey fracases, here's a list of other literary frauds. Writing is lying, indeed. [via Bookslut]
posted by xmutex (33 comments total)

 
In other news, Jim Morrison was not the king of the Lizards, Tom Waits is not a homeless derelict, and Christina Aguilera is not, in fact, a genie in a bottle.
posted by jonmc at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2006


Non of those were sold as non-fiction either, jon.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:12 PM on January 10, 2006


I know pollomacho. And Frey's the only one who sold his story as the truth and I always thought he was a choad even beforehand. The fetishization of "street cred," and "autheticity" always struck me as a chumps game anyway. The quality of the work is waht's important.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2006


But when I was in grad school, they said that the division of writing into fiction and non-fiction was purely a social construction...
posted by R. Mutt at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2006


jonmc,
Don't know if you've spotted this essay by Frey? (http://www.powells.com/fromtheauthor/frey.html)

It's beyond parody on - I guess -how To Look Authentic And Street Cred While You Are Composing Authentic And Street Cred Prose.

Sample: "In order to do this, I needed to feel what I was writing about as I was writing about it. If I cried in the book, I was usually crying as I sat at my computer. If I was angry in the book, I was angry as I wrote, and I pounded the keys of my keyboard and swore to myself and sometimes screamed. If I was violent in the book, I was violent at my desk, that violence usually expressing itself in the breaking of glass or smashing of plastic cups. Because the events in my book took place many years ago, I almost always needed to manipulate myself into the proper state of mind."

BTW, what's a "choad"?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:50 PM on January 10, 2006


(R. Mutt, I know you were joking, so this is directed at your teachers rather than you, I guess, but the use of "social construction" to mean "meaningless", "useless", or "arbitrary" really pisses me off. Many social constructions exist for quite good reasons; they simply aren't absolutely inherently essential and can be changed. And so what if they are? The distinction between fiction and nonfiction is USEFUL. Why does pointing out that the distinction is in some ways constructed rather than Eternal Truth make it less so? Feh.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:55 PM on January 10, 2006


"I almost always needed to manipulate myself into the proper state of mind."

"I almost always needed to manipulate the facts in order to finish my memoir novel.
posted by ericb at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2006


Chode/choad, defined.
posted by stopgap at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2006


I think a choad is like a taint, but I'm not sure.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2006


The memoir as genre is complicated; 'Truth' is predicated on infallibility of memory, which is impossible.

It's the amount of liberties taken that determines whether it's just a little artistic license or a boatload of unbelievable crap.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2006


I almost always needed to manipulate myself


Ah yes, the auto-manipulative biography
posted by Sparx at 3:31 PM on January 10, 2006


Thanks, stopgap!

(Via the British Raj, eh? Strangled cough....)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:27 PM on January 10, 2006


That makes me an angry penguin.
posted by seanyboy at 4:44 PM on January 10, 2006


In Oz, we had a very big literary scandal involving a one Helen Demidenko. What complicated things was that her book won some big awards which had cash prizes.

As Quadrant was going to press it was revealed that the winner of this year's Miles Franklin Award, Helen Demidenko, was the daughter not, as she claims, of an illiterate Ukrainian taxi driver from Cairns but of a Brisbane couple, Harry and Grace Darville, who arrived on our shores from nowhere more exotic that Scunthorpe. Even post-modernist geographers would, I imagine, be obliged to concede in the end that Scunthorpe is not in Ukraine.

Not only was she a fraud, she also was a plagiariser!

Helen Darville, who caused a furore less than two years ago with her book The Hand That Signed the Paper, is in trouble again. While most of the uproar concerned her fake Ukrainian identity, there was also concern that she had reproduced a substantial amount of work from other writers, most notably Robyn Morgan and Thomas Keneally.

But the majority of you xenophobic Americans probably don't care coz she wasn't on Oprah. ;)



But what you might care about was that a Thomas Keneally book, Schindler's Ark, became the movie Shindler's List.

Mate, the guy's head got so big that he couldn’t walk thru normal sized doorways. In a "Look at me! I'm important because an important American is paying attention to me!" kind of way. Wanker.

Oh, and his book mysteriously changed name to match the movie title.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:14 PM on January 10, 2006


exlotuseater - The memoir as genre is complicated; 'Truth' is predicated on infallibility of memory, which is impossible.

FWIW, in numerous interviews I've seen, Frey has stated that he had all of his rehab/criminal/hospital records at hand as he was writing the book in order to maintain accuracy, without having to rely solely on memory.

that being said, it's hard to know whether such records even exist as he seems to have made every effort to make any/all records inaccessible to anyone trying to do any research.
posted by pruner at 6:11 PM on January 10, 2006


seanyboy:
That makes me an angry penguin.

Still the black swan of trespass on alien waters, eh?
posted by nflorin at 6:28 PM on January 10, 2006


While most of the uproar concerned her fake Ukrainian identity, there was also concern that she had reproduced a substantial amount of work from other writers, most notably Robyn Morgan and Thomas Keneally.

Fascinating. Speaking as a Ukrainian, the idea that someone would try to pass themselves off as Ukrainian is, well, somewhat bizarre.
posted by bobo123 at 8:10 PM on January 10, 2006


Pruner,
I've also read about Frey and his copious records - but two further things are very strange.
1. He claims he's had court/police court records "expunged". How exactly does one do that? Does one get special legal dispensation as a suddenly shy memoir writer?
2. I saw an (old) interview clip tonight when he robustly referred to having "400 pages" of rehab medical records. Forgive my suspicious mind - but that's a hell of a lot of pages. Or maybe it just strikes me as a peculiarly "impressive" number. Perhaps that's normal?

I no longer know. And that's part of my immense irritation with this mess. Frey seems to be so horribly calculating in his con. Any lingering benefit of the doubt that little lies snowballed on him (the usual excuse in these things) is becoming harder to entertain.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:18 PM on January 10, 2006


...commenters now are saying Frey's doing Larry King tomorrow night, FWIW.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:21 PM on January 10, 2006


Uncanny, wasn't there an Anglo Australian poet who infamously passed himself (or herself?) off as Aboriginal? And I seem to remember a recent scandal involving an author who claimed to have suffered terrible abuses as a young woman in the Middle East before seeking refuge in Australia, while in fact she had grown up in a normal suburban family in midwest America.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2006


Uncanny, wasn't there an Anglo Australian poet who infamously passed himself (or herself?) off as Aboriginal?

This is the one that springs to mind: Elizabeth Durack (from a very famous pioneering family) passing herself off as Aboriginal artist, Eddie Burrup. IIRC, the old dear brushed off the scandal and basically told everyone to jam it, saying she really believed she was channelling the spirit of an Aboriginal called Eddie Burrup!

But while Googling for that one I also found that honky Leon Carmen won some awards pretending to be Aboriginal writer Wanda Koolmatrie. Worth clicking on the link just to see his photoshopesque head!

And I also saw that honky John O'Loughlin painted some works pretending to be famous Aboriginal artist Possum Tjapaltjari.

And it's not arts related… but then there's the very famous Secret Women's Business scandal where (mostly honky) lobbyists tried to stop a bridge construction by falsely claiming that Aboriginal women treated the area as a sacred site where they performed, erm, secret women's business.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:58 PM on January 10, 2006


(mostly honky) lobbyists tried to stop a bridge construction

Slight correction: I really haven't got the time to fully research this. But I think it might have been mostly Aboriginals who did the lobbying - but it was honky environmentalists who first thought of the crafty lie.

It's all a big ol' mess. Looks like the Aboriginal woman and honky journalist who eventually told the truth were ostracised / received death threats etc, while the bullshit artists received honorary doctorates and literary awards AFTER the lie was exposed.

But that doesn't make sense does it? Surely I've got the timeline wrong???!

Dulcie Wilson, Doreen's second cousin, would have none of [the lies]. But while Wilson's version of events was ignored or dismissed, the book which lauded Kartinyeri and endorsed her version of events, In Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was, and Will Be (1999), by anthropologist Diane Bell, was widely reviewed by the media, short-listed for The Age Book of the Year, and won a NSW Premier's Prize for Literature.

The University of South Australia awarded Kartinyeri an honorary doctorate, asserting it was for her work in compiling family histories and had nothing to do with Hindmarsh Island.

While Kenny was ostracised, the reporter who broke the original story, Colin James of The Adelaide Advertiser, who repeated the claims of secret women's business at face value, won a Walkley Award, one of journalism's highest honours.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:22 PM on January 10, 2006


There's also B Wongar who's another odd duck.

It's not the impersonation, it's the attendant publicity which is the problem. Without the PR guff, it's just another novel which you may read or not, depending on the blurb.
posted by emf at 11:41 PM on January 10, 2006


I'm not sure 'J.T. Leroy' fits neatly into the literary fraud category. The 'J.T. Leroy' project seems to be more of a pseudo-Neoist thing - 'Leroy' is similar to Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot or Luther Blisset, but with one person presented as a physical manifestation of the pseudonym, rather than the entire group adopting a single indentity, and a closed group of authors using a pseudonym rather than offering it up as a potential identity available for adoption by all artists.

(I'm probably giving the J.T. Leroy people too much credit...)
posted by jack_mo at 3:51 AM on January 11, 2006


Never even heard of neoism, so thank you for that. Sounds complicated. But clearly we've come a long way since the old days.

On the upside, I rejoice that all the disgusting things in Frey's book were all just a bad dream.

And now he's a successful author.

Only in America!

Or perhaps Australia.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:10 AM on January 11, 2006


Secret Women's bussness. hehehe
posted by delmoi at 7:06 AM on January 11, 2006


And for those of you who haven't seen it yet:



Op-Ed Contributor
A Million Little Corrections
By TIM CARVELL
Published: January 11, 2006


IT is with great sorrow, and no small amount of embarrassment, that I must confess to some inadvertent errors, omissions and elisions in my best-selling memoir, "A Brief History of Tim." In the wake of the recent revelations about the work of J T Leroy and James Frey, it seems inevitable that some of my small mistakes will come to light, and so I feel duty-bound to be upfront and honest with you. Plus, I hear that reporters have been sniffing around.

I feel that none of the slight liberties I took in writing my memoir really affect the overall work, but nonetheless, you should know a few things:

I am not, in fact, black.

Nor am I, to the best of my knowledge, a woman. Anything in my book that suggests otherwise is the result of a typographical error. That this error was compounded by my decision to pose for my author photo and bookstore appearances in drag and blackface is, I will acknowledge, unfortunate.

The portions of my book dealing with Depression-era Ireland are, I have been reliably informed, copied verbatim from Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." I can only conclude that I accidentally confused my manuscript with my notes for my memoir in which I copied large portions of other writers' works, just to see how they were structured. In hindsight, the fact that I was born 40 years after the Depression should have been a tip-off.

My parents are both alive; any reference to my being orphaned at age 12 was meant to be strictly metaphorical.

Furthermore, my parents and their lawyers would like it known that neither they, nor any other member of my family, ever beat and/or had sex with me. I thought it was clear that those parts of the book were meant as a joke. (That's what the emoticons were for.)

In writing a narrative, it is sometimes necessary to compress or combine certain incidents for dramatic effect. I did much the same thing in the chapter of my book dealing with my prison term, although in reverse: in the interest of dramatic clarity, I expanded my 1993 arrest for jaywalking into a seven-year stint in Sing Sing for manslaughter.

Okay, it wasn't so much a jaywalking "arrest" as a ticket.

Fine, it was a stern warning. Happy now?

The death of my older brother, my ensuing severe depression and subsequent emotional breakthrough with the help of a caring psychotherapist did not happen to me, but rather to Timothy Hutton in the film "Ordinary People," which I saw at a very impressionable age, and which I could have sworn happened to me.

Ditto for the part about accidentally hacking into Norad and being saved from causing a global thermonuclear war, with an assist from Dabney Coleman. That was "WarGames."

Really, the fact that I could remember his name only as "Dabney Coleman" should have given me pause.

And, finally, since people are getting all "fact-checky" on me, I should just confess that my life did not, in fact, shatter into a million little pieces. I just went back and recounted. It was six pieces. Consider it a rounding error.

Tim Carvell is a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."
posted by availablelight at 7:13 AM on January 11, 2006


Thanks availablelight. Rivals Neal Pollack, though he got there first.
posted by soyjoy at 7:42 AM on January 11, 2006


This might be a metafilter record: 28 comments, nearly 24 hours have passed, and apparently no one's even bothered to read the link.

It's funny. You should click on it.
posted by veronica sawyer at 9:22 AM on January 11, 2006


I read the link. It wasn't funny.
nflorin: Yep.
posted by seanyboy at 12:11 PM on January 11, 2006


This might be a metafilter record: 28 comments, nearly 24 hours have passed, and apparently no one's even bothered to read the link.

a) Why do you assume that? No, really. Not a rhetorical question. Why do you assume that?

b) It is links, not link. And the first link was the dog's balls. Sorry for not wanting to publicly snark about it.

Mark Twain was a pen name. Ooooooooh. Somebody call the fraud squad.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:17 PM on January 11, 2006


I read the link. This thread was better.
posted by soiled cowboy at 9:51 PM on January 11, 2006


Yeah, not to be repetitive, but I thought it best not to mention how lame the actual link was, but since you've forced the issue in such a lame way, yeah, I did read it.
posted by soyjoy at 7:49 AM on January 12, 2006


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