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Fiction or Fact?

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Fiction as fact. Fact as fiction. What's a reader to do?

The stereotype is that devotees of the printed word are more highbrow than those who prefer television. One might then suppose that the world of publishing is therefore less prone to drama than the world of broadcasting. The steady stream of agony out of publishing continues.

Nearly three years ago I wrote about blogging vs. traditional media. I believed then and now that the response of print media to the phenomenon of blogging was really more to do with preservation of their own business model than anything else. (Readers that are interested in hearing how the media industry is finally starting to figure out how to work in the age of the electron might be interested to hear the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal Gordon Crovitz discuss changes affecting the media industry in the Chicago GSB Podcast.)

The New York Times recently published a contributed Op-Ed piece by Mark Leyner that began, “In a scandal that's sending shock waves through both the publishing industry and academia, the author Franz Kafka has been revealed to be a fraud.” This brilliant article is, of course, a response to a bit of agony that has been playing out in the world of memoir publishing for several years.

We're talking about the memoirs written by Margaret Seltzer, Misha Defonseca, JT LeRoy, and James Frey. All hailed as powerful and valuable. All discovered to be fabricated. Fiction. What follows, then, is a new wave of discussion about what it means to write a memoir rather than a novel. It amuses me to some degree because so often when we consider fiction, we're led to wonder how much of it is real. In truth, this is really part of a very old debate.

Maybe in the end we should just drop the labels and have readers judge by the writers' reputations whether the works are memoir or fiction.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2008-03-22 06:41 PM
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