Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Trust Me

Your fiancee is about to have her manuscript published. She's been given an advance that approaches $100,000. A freelance reporter asks you to verify her story. What do you say?

Ah, sure it's all as she's said, a wise man would say. Who'd be fool enough to give up that kind of money? Especially when Penguin is fool enough to print a nonsense and pay handsomely for it.

Margaret Seltzer made up a whopping great lie of a tale. She said it was true, and her word was good enough for literary agent Faye Bender and publisher Geoffrey Kloske and editor Sarah McGrath. The book that Ms. Seltzer wrote was not a memoir at all, at all, and isn't the entire publishing world shocked.

A white girl in a black foster home? Don't question that impossible scenario, lest you appear to be racist.

A white girl, running drugs for a black gang? In a racially unmixed neighborhood? Does this not defy all credibility?

Who's your foster uncle, Ms. Seltzer was asked. He's in prison, she said. And then she named a prison. Did anyone check with the Bureau of Prisons to be sure that the uncle was indeed locked up there? No, but they did verify that the prison actually existed. How difficult is it to say that he's locked up in Folsom, Dwight, Pontiac, Leavenworth, or what all? And the freelance reporter is stunned that Ms. Seltzer's fable wasn't outed?

Ira Silverberg, the literary agent who represented the fraud that was J.T. Leroy, doesn't believe that the publishing industry is capable of fact checking. How about just listening to the little voice in one's head that says this is the biggest load of shite ever yet produced. Publishers should keep in mind that there's plenty of would-be authors out there who hold to the axiom that there's a sucker born every minute.

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