Liar, Liar and More Liars

A few days ago I read a post at Straight From Hel about another discredited memoir by Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat. (The memoir won’t be published because of the fudging.) The story purports to be the tale of how Rosenblat met his wife, how she helped him survive the camps. Oprah touted the romance as “the single greatest love story, in 22 years of doing this show, we’ve ever told on the air.”

Brevity posted about the story today with a link to a piece by Meghan Daum of the LA Times in which Daum asks “why don’t these authors simply present their books as fiction? After all, many novels are truer than their authors often admit. So why not play it safe and replace the word ‘memoir’ with ‘novel’ on the title page?”

Daum addresses the question to Creative Nonfiction founder Lee Gutkind. Gutkind says:

“I don’t think [Rosenblat’s story] is a particularly terrific story compared to the fictional worlds created by most fiction writers today,” Gutkind added. “It’s a cute story … but it doesn’t have the scope and depth required of fiction. But once you say it’s true, it becomes the kind of thing a publisher can take to the bank.”

The issue of moneymaking certainly must have lit up the eyes of the publisher’s sales and marketing team, but Daum ends the piece suggesting another problem is readers, the audience, and what they are or are not demanding from what’s being published:

For all the guilt there is to go around in the “Angel at the Fence” debacle — including the willful myopia of Rosenblat’s champions and editors as well as the man himself — a deeper blame may lie with an audience that demands so much treacle and sensationalism that apparently even the Holocaust requires narrative embellishment.


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