Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another True Story that Isn't (a.k.a. a worm in the apple) --veinglory

It seems that Oprah's penchant for heart wrenching true stories has left her, once again, endorsing a story that isn't is a novel dressed up as a memoir. Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived goes that extra insult by drawing on the tragedy of the Holocaust to add pathos to the tale.

It seems to me that if Oprah and publisher's like Penguin (and uindeed the agency of Andrea Hurst & Associates) want to benefit from the popularity of amazing true stories they could both afford to hire fact checkers and investigators before putting the word "true" right in the book's title. It seems the story falls at the first hurdle in that prisoners and locals could not meet at the fence of the camp where the future couple allegedly met. Oprah and Penguin have both made this same mitake repeatedly and surely should have learned from it by now?

I feel sad that on older person who no doubt had a true story worth telling let an embellished version escape the circle of his immediate family (where granddad came ebroider his tales to his heart's content). But as with Cassie Edward's plagiarism, deliberiberately false memoirs cannot be excused out of sympathy.

7 comments:

ggymeta said...

Wow. Talk about embellishments; yeah, they were strict about looky-loos.

Would it have been so awful to just call it?: Angel at the Fence: Love That Survives.

Emily Veinglory said...

I doubt they would do that after all the publicity, interview, 25 million dollar movie deal where they insisted it was true....

Zot said...

Why on earth would Penguin fact check this?

If the book does poorly in general, nobody'll care whether it's real or not.

If, on the other hand, if it does well then odds are this sort of 'memoir' will sell an order of magnitude or more copies than it would if it were a novel. Sure, if they get caught they'll do an "oops, sorry!", but that's after the quarterly sales numbers with that extra zero (or two) on the end. Hardly seems like much incentive to check.

At some point this'll backfire enough that a new 'memoir' will sell less well than the equivalent novel, but we've not hit that point yet.

Oprah might have more incentive to make sure the memoir's not bogus, but then again maybe not -- if it's real she gets a few good shows out of it, and if it's fake she gets even more shows, since there are all the ones she gets for the book, plus the extra one with the outrage over being lied to. Again, at some point it'll not be a win, but I don't think she's hit that point yet either. (Though Oprah'll probably hit it sooner)

Yeah, maybe I'm a touch cynical. On the other hand I work adjacent to brokers, bankers, and sales-weasels of all sorts, so I see a lot of people diving for the next big win. I don't think publishing's got any better a track record for integrity...

Emily Veinglory said...

One reason Penguin should fact check is they had to kill this book about a month prior to release, ergo a huge net loss if after/if the recover the advance. They have alamost certainly already printed and warehoused a large run that will now be pulped.

Zot said...

Ah, I missed the fact it was shot before release. Someone gambled on this and they lost, big time. That may actually stop all this nonsense.

Kinda sucks for the publisher, what with the economy in the state it's in, but I'm hard pressed to work up too much sympathy for 'em. A lot of people let this one pass who should've known better, and I'd bet that a few of them knew exactly what was going on and let it go anyway.

JS said...

Given the age of the autobiographee, I'm willing to believe that it might be unwitting falsehood, at least to some extent, on his part. Confabulation is often an early sign of dementia in older patients.

That said, Penguin has no such excuse! Did people learn nothing from "Binjamin Wilkomirski"?

Tuscan Capo said...

I tend to think if the big pubs would just wash the dollar signs out of their eyes they wouldn't be drawing up so many contracts for these bogus memoirs.