A phony Holocaust memoir. A made-up tale of a gangland childhood. What's next?

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
March 4 2008 6:24 PM

Worst Publishing Week Ever

A phony Holocaust memoir. A made-up tale of a gangland childhood. What's next?

Click here to learn why memoir fabulists will always get caught, here for guidelines on how to fabricate your next memoir, here to learn about the feud over a former child-soldier's autobiography, and here to get a sneak peek at Volume 2 of Margaret B. Jones' memoirs.

Augustine's Confessions

Author Ishmael Beah's bestselling account of his time as a child soldier was proved factually flawed last night by a document found in a remote Sierra Leone schoolhouse.
The Australian, Feb. 2, 2008

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

In a statement issued by her Belgian lawyer, Misha Defonseca of Dudley, whose book, Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, has been translated into 18 languages … confessed that she is not Jewish and that she spent the war safely in Brussels.
The Boston Globe, Feb. 29, 2008

In Love and Consequences, a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her 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. The problem is that none of it is true.
The New York Times, March 4, 2008


Barack Obama invented several important details in his acclaimed 1995 memoir, Dreams FromMy Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, according to a memo distributed by the Clinton campaign as polls opened yesterday. The book describes Mr. Obama's experiences after the accidental death of his black African father in 1982. The senator's father was born in San Francisco, Calif., not Nyangoma-Kogelo, Kenya, as was alleged in the book, the memo claims. "Charles 'Chip' Obama spent every day of his life in the Bay Area, including the 24 years he spent working in a co-op bakery."
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 5, 2008

Two authors confessed this week to fabricating salacious memoirs at the behest of disgraced publisher Judith Regan. Jenna Jameson, author of the best-selling How To Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, told reporters on Monday that she was still a virgin and that "true love waits for strippers, too." The following day, former ballerina Toni Bentley admitted that her book The Surrender was inappropriately marketed as an autobiography; in reality, she never experienced "emancipation through the backdoor," nor, indeed, any activity involving "the forbidden pathway."
Editor & Publisher, March 11, 2008

A critical edition of The Confessions of St. Augustine published by the University of Oxford Press has renewed fierce debate over the life and times of the fourth-century Christian philosopher. A number of high-profile professors now believe the author's famously sinful youth to be rife with exaggeration. "There's just no reason to believe that the thornbushes of lust ever grew rank about his head," says historian Carlo Ricci of the Pontifical University in Rome. "Take a look at what his contemporaries were writing—there's just no way a guy from Hippo would be drinking the invisible wine of a perverted will."
—The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22, 2008

James Frey has confessed that he did not personally appear on Oprah to admit fabricating his drug-abuse memoir, A Million Little Pieces. "That was Augusten Burroughs, the acclaimed writer of Running With Scissors," Frey wrote in a letter released by his lawyer on Monday. "We were doing whippits backstage, and then all of a sudden Augie takes out a Sharpie, writes 'FTBSITTTD' on his arm, and runs out there." The lawyer said Frey was relieved to put this all behind him.
—The Seattle Times, April 3, 2008

Pantheon Books has stopped shipping copies of Persepolis and Persepolis 2 after several bloggers raised troubling concerns about the autobiographical comic books. Reached by phone on Wednesday evening, Marjane Satrapi tearfully admitted that she had taken "extensive liberties" in her depiction of her youth in Iran. Satrapi does in fact have both lips and eyelids. She also confessed to "completely making up the whole two-dimension thing."
—Ain't It Cool News, April 6, 2008

A prominent human rights activist in Sudan has accused fiction writer Dave Eggers of failing to make up key passages in his recent novel What Is the What. The book purports to give a non-nonfictional account of a real-life child refugee who endured years of starvation and violence in Darfur. "I want to know how this passed the sniff-test with his editors," said Howard Goldenschmidt of Darfur-NOW. "I mean, man-eating lions? It's just too good to be not true."
—Associated Press, April 19, 2008



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