Saturday, February 16, 2008

Memoir Scandals

Perhaps you followed the scandal about James Frey’s memoir (A Million Little Pieces) touted by Oprah that later turned out to be pure fiction. Poor Oprah was duped into feeling such compassion for Frey’s unbelievably gruesome and horrid experience. If it hadn’t really happened no one would believe it. But in fact it didn’t happen. Columnist Levi Asher published guidance for authors about how to avoid memoir scandals. The guidance is based on real occurrences. You can read Asher’s full article at: Guardian

Here are his eight rules:
  1. Do not use the word "memoir" unless you mean it.
  2. If you're not sure whether what you're writing is a memoir or not, guess what? It's a novel.
  3. No more than half a page of plagiarism per book.
  4. Don't make up exact dates that you can't remember. Instead, be general: "The most important day of my life was the day of my son's birth, in the summer of 2005 . . . "
  5. Just say no to sending a friend out in public with a wig as you.
  6. If you're in a flame war and you're about to go sock puppet, take a 10-minute break and go to a coffee shop without a wi-fi facility. Maybe the walk will cool you down.
  7. Go ahead and make up dialogue. Everybody except Tom Wolfe does.
  8. Pick a name. "Benjamin Black is John Banville" is just not a good look.

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