Yet Another Literary Hoax

One week after Misha Defonseca confessed that she didn't really grow up with wolves, as she claimed in her memoir of her childhood in war-torn Europe, another literary hoax has surfaced.

Love and Consequences, by Margaret B. Jones, purports to be a non-fiction memoir of the author's life "as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods."

In reality, as the NY Times reports: "Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed."

Seltzer offers the usual excuse: It's true in a vague, metaphorical sense. The things she describes really do happen. They just didn't happen to her.

Seltzer was outed by her older sister who saw an article about her in last week's NY Times. I predict there's going to be some awkward Thanksgiving dinners for that family in the future.

Seltzer's publisher has cancelled her book tour and is recalling all copies of the book.

Identity/Imposters Literature/Language

Posted on Tue Mar 04, 2008


Maybe we need a new category - semi-fiction. Would be useful for politician's autobiographies and such
Posted by cthelmax  on  Tue Mar 04, 2008  at  10:08 AM
She must have done something pretty bad to her sister. Wow.
Posted by dply27  in  Denver, CO USA  on  Tue Mar 04, 2008  at  10:37 AM
I'm thinking of writing my memoirs

It'll be about how my family were slaughtered by the massed armies of atila the hun. I survive only because a house fell on me but left me in an air pocket.
I was raised soon after by apaches and brought up to believe I was the son of the great god Aten. I was badly injured in a polo match when I fell off my horse and had to have my leg amputated.
During the first world war I fought on both sides and single handedly liberated Paris from the French.
I won the Monte Carlo rally three times running and was the first to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon.
I got to the top of Mount Everest three days before Edmund Hillary (someone had to make sure everything was ready for him)
After I dealt with Blofeld I went into politics. I stood for Prime Minister of England, President of America and Dictator of Ancient Rome all in the same year and won each election by a landslide.
I am currently living as a recluse in Arizona without internet connection. Longing for a return to the good old days.
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Tue Mar 04, 2008  at  11:04 AM
I remember as a kid there was a popular book called 'Go ask alice' which was supposed to be about a young girls decent into the horrors of drug abuse. It was proported as factual diary.

It is only recently that I learned that it was written by a Mormon guidance councler.
Posted by weblamer  on  Tue Mar 04, 2008  at  01:56 PM
If we are removing books from the sales shelves for purporting to be true while actually being fiction, it is time to gather up those Bibles.
Posted by wwww  on  Tue Mar 04, 2008  at  05:13 PM
I don't get that excuse at all. If it was me, I'd say that of course it was fiction - and the claim that it was non-fiction was a part of the novel's conceit, a way to expand the act of creation beyond the pages of the book itself etc etc.

Then I would throw up my hands in innocent bewilderment at the failure of all these journalists to grasp the point: What, you mean you honestly thought it was true? You do know This Is Spinal Tap is not a real documentary, right? Never heard of suspension of disbelief?

And I'd add that I was sure my readers had understood, as they were far too intelligent not to grasp the conceit.
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Mar 05, 2008  at  01:31 AM
Nobody seems to care that the movie Fargo, which won an Oscar opens with "This is a true story", when it isn't. But books are a different thing altogether to some people.
Posted by mr royale  on  Wed Mar 05, 2008  at  02:25 AM
royale - many movies open with lines similar to that...and very few are truly accurate.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Mar 05, 2008  at  08:13 AM
>>Nobody seems to care that the movie Fargo, which won an Oscar opens with "This is a true story", when it isn't. But books are a different thing altogether to some people.<<

This points to the difference between a hoax and a lie. If a hoax is perceived as clever or funny, we blame the people who fell for it for their gullibility. Whereas if someone is just lying then we blame them for not being honest.

Obviously people are going to disagree about whether a particular deception was clever or just dishonest.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Mar 05, 2008  at  08:38 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.