Two critics discuss 2012's raging debates over sock puppets, Twitter cheerleaders and hatchet-job reviews
Our theme is the year in criticism, and there’s plenty to talk about, but first I have to express my astonishment over what we didn’t see this year: I can’t recall any memoir being exposed as partly or wholly fictional!
I know! It’s very disappointing. There was a while there when it seemed like every time you opened a newspaper there was a new one. There was the girl in L.A. who said she grew up in a gang when she really went to a prep school, and the lady who fled the Nazis and went running with the wolves. I’ve decided that the phony memoir is my favorite genre.
You write in the preface of your new collection that “the reality problem is the preeminent cultural event of our day,” and you’ve written memoir yourself, so that doesn’t really surprise me. But tell me what you like about phony memoirs.
All kidding aside, they’re interesting because the reaction to them when the shit hits the fan tells you a lot about our expectations of the genre. They’re revealing about us and what we want. What does it mean to be truthful in a memoir? Why do people attach so strongly to memoirs? When the memoir’s basis in truth is called into question, can they still get something out of it? The James Frey thing was a perfect example of that.
Because some people said that even if “A Million Little Pieces” was partly fabricated, they still found the book an inspirational account of addiction and recovery?
Right. But I say, fine: Then it’s a novel. What you want to get from a novel is different from what you want from a memoir. When you find out that some extraordinary story in a memoir is not true, it does alter your sense of the book in a very particular way.
Full article at Salon