You know that little note you have on your calendar to drop by Vromans Thursday to hear Margaret B. Jones read from her memoir of L.A. gang life, Love & Consequences?
Scratch it out. Nix the notion. Jones, as youve read by now, grew up a Blood about as much as did the rest of her classmates at preppie, Episcopalian Campbell Hall school in North Hollywood.
Shes really Peggy Seltzer, from Sherman Oaks, not South Central. Shes all white, not half Native American. She never hung out on a street corner, dealing crack with her foster siblings.
And, yeah, the bookstore canceled the reading. Patrick Conyers, the excellent chief blogger at the stores Web site, posted the news Tuesday: Vroman’s dont truck with no liars.
Among the comparisons people are making is the sham perpetrated by James Frey as A Million Little Pieces. See, that one never raised my hackles so much. So, an alcoholic exaggerated his recovery story. So what. Its also fairly easy to see how the publisher got suckered. Confidentiality requirements can make it hard to confirm what precisely goes on at whiskey schools.
But this weeks scams are making said publishers look massively dumb or maybe just even greedier than we thought. Two books that should have been labeled novels instead got called memoirs, apparently since supposed real-life stories sell better than fiction these days.
First, the Belgian writer who admitted she made up her best-seller Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, which was translated into 18 languages and made into a feature film in France.
Right, she now admits: I did not travel 1,900 miles as a child across Europe in the care of a pack of wolves in search of my deported parents during World War II.
My God, and it took years for this to come out? A PACK OF WOLVES?
So what should have been the first clue for the editor of Love & Consequences, who says she worked with her young author for a long time? Well, I looked up the first chapter, still available on the Web, though the book has been pulled from stores. Our heroine, a very white-looking girl supposedly talked into drug dealing at 12 by a black gang, has a Blood OG mentor who comes by to visit his troops. Sometimes, she writes, he stopped and talked to me. We talked about L.A. history …
Uh-huh. Hes a history buff, this original gangster.
Can we go back to the good old days of literature, label every longish life story a novel, and get on with it?
In totally unrelated news, a local blogger wonders about some street signs hes seen around town lately that seem a bit tongue in cheek.
Like Islands of L.A. Natl Park in a rather official-looking font, well-attached to a proper city-approved pole on a traffic island.
Little joke there, see. And so smart that my guess is what were dealing with here is that dreaded thing, art. And no less than the art of Jenny Holzer, the language-based conceptualist.
Clues? Holzer is tied in with the Women in the City project spreading virally around L.A. right now. The catalog cites her Inflammatory Essays as Posters at construction sites in the City of Pasadena. The signs are not precisely that, but still . . . The language reminds me of a Holzer piece I have on my office door: If you had behaved nicely the Communists wouldnt exist.