Hip-hop journalist Harry Allen has unearthed a 10-minute video of disgraced memoirist Margaret Seltzer — remember her? two months ago? — back when she was still pretending to be an ex-gangbanger and drug-runner. The video was likely made to promote Seltzer's fake autobiography, Love And Consequences, and "may be the only existing footage of Seltzer in her full-on 'hood' persona," Allen writes. Seltzer dishes some fun-to-watch lies in the video, like when she talks about the violent death of a fabricated nephew (Allen notes Seltzer calls the supposed dead boy "it" and "thing"), and sometimes Seltzer abruptly halts or chokes up, as though her guilt or fear of exposure about lying has tripped her up. Some of the better moments, including Seltzer talking about "homies" on death row toasting her graduation, are excerpted in a two-minute summary video after the jump.
The New Yorker just published a ridiculous, hand-wavy essay questioning the importance of factual truth in history and providing some sliver of refuge to fake memoirists like Margaret Seltzer even as it badmouths them. The essay is littered with questions, and they all have the sort of "everything is relative, man" ring you'd expect from discussions in an undergraduate philosophy class. "What makes a book a history?" "Is historical truth truer than fictional truth?" "If a history book can be read as if it were a novel and if a reader can find the same truth in a history book and a novel... what's the difference between them?" "Is history at risk?" There are a total of 16 question marks in the piece beginning to end, but they all drive transparently at the same answer, delivered toward the close of the essay in this summary of the historic meditations of English writer William Godwin: "The novelist is the better historian-and especially better than the empirical historian-because he admits that he is partial, prejudiced, and ignorant, and because he has not forsaken passion." The piece concludes by exploring, in a crescendo of absurdity, the idea that history — real, true, actual history as the term is understood today — should perhaps embrace a "license to invent" to draw in women readers, since women read novels and avoid contemporary history:
"To discredit Love and Consequences... allows Americans the luxury of continuing to ignore the problems the book represents, or at best of waiting for another voice to bring it to our attention. Every memoir or autobiography is an individual's fashioning of his or her life, directed toward that individual's conception of audience. The more intimate or psychological the events recounted - of childhood trauma, of addiction, of religious conversion, or even of racial identity - the more ludicrous it is for readers to insist upon documentary truth." [Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard via MediaBistro]
"Whenever a case like this comes to light, someone asks: Why don't publishers fact-check their books? The basic answer is that it's not practical. Publishers release hundreds of books each year, most of them several hundred pages long. A publisher simply can't afford to fact-check all of those books to the standards of, say, the New Yorker, where a fact checker essentially re-reports each story." [NY Sun]