Oprah Winfrey's Liars Club

Richard Lawson · 12/29/08 02:22PM

What's the one thing nearly every fake memoir scandal seems to have in common? From James Frey to Angel at the Fence, if a story is bullshit, chances are Oprah was there first.

Literary Love Connection

Hamilton Nolan · 04/30/08 04:51PM

Byron Crawford, one of the best hip hop bloggers out there and also a raging homophobe and horny bastard, was very impressed by fake author Margaret Seltzer's outfit and demeanor in her video rendition of fantastic tales from the hood. He'd like to get to know her better. "You know who has two thumbs and lurves white chicks who wear doorknocker earrings? This guy. *points at himself with his two thumbs*," he says. Just carrying the message! [XXL]

Fake Gangster Caught On Video

Ryan Tate · 04/30/08 12:41AM

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.

In Prison, Reading Vogue And Harper's Bazaar Kind Of Makes You Everyone's Bitch

Ryan Tate · 04/17/08 03:22AM

Derek Khan is living the high life now in Dubai, having put his past as a jewelry-pinching celebrity stylist behind him. He has recaptured some of his past glory, now appearing as a "commentator and makeover specialist" on satellite TV and in magazines like OK! Middle East. But in between Khan's come-up and his comeback, between 2003 and 2005, he did time at Rikers Island and two upstate prisons. None of his famous clients visited him in jail, so Khan kept tabs on them by reading fashion magazines. You can guess how that went over in the clink:

Shameless Publishers Lied For Profit

Ryan Tate · 04/08/08 08:33PM

Fabricating author Ben Mezrich isn't another Margaret Seltzer or James Frey, instead he's part of a far more serious deception. It has emerged that Mezrich invented most of the card-sharking characters in his supposed "real-life" biography, Bringing Down The House, the basis for the hit movie 21. He also appears to have manufactured the bloody beating of a gambler, the smuggling of cash at the airport using hollow crutches, the theft of a safe and the very existence of an MIT instructor. The thing is, his editors knew all about it. But they decided to market his book as a true story, and label it that way on the cover.

Hil's Dangerous Bosnian Adventure Perhaps a Bit Exaggerated

Pareene · 03/24/08 03:13PM

So Hillary Clinton has been going around saying that she is qualified to be president of everyone in part because she was shot at in Bosnia once, in 1996. CBS News dug up their original story from that Bosnia trip, and it turns out the "sniper fire" was actually a little girl, with a flower. Some card spliced the report with the recent Clinton speech about how dangerous that trip was, what with all the "evasive maneuvers" and such. Busted! New York compares Hillary to memoir-faker Margaret Seltzer, but that's unfair: Hillary went to Bosnia with Sinbad so she's still got cred that no one can touch. Full clip attached below.

Gangsta Love

Sheila · 03/24/08 08:36AM

We finally got around to reading the fake gang memoir, Margaret Seltzer's Love and Consequences. While we agree with the NYT's Michiko Kakutani's assesment ("self-consciously novelistic"), we thought there was one line worth sharing: "He leaned over and gently kissed me... his lips tasted like Olde English and chronic smoke." Word up!

Let's Ruin History, The Margaret Seltzer Way

Ryan Tate · 03/19/08 01:53AM

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:

Margaret Selzter Fooled Even Her Friends

Sheila · 03/12/08 09:12AM

The fake memoirist/non-gang member's believers included Inga Muscio, friend and feminist author of Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. Muscio introducted Seltzer to her agent, which resulted in the deal for Seltzer's Love and Consequences. Seltzer is either a bit crazy, or a total Method actor, because "everyone who has met her for the past ten years knows her to be the person she describes in the book," says Muscio on her feisty blog. Also: Muscio is pissed that by talking to a NYT reporter (and EW) about Seltzer, their names are now linked in the media. Even worse, two of Seltzer's lies ended up in Muscio's latest book, Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil.

At Least Lying Author Was Convincing

Ryan Tate · 03/10/08 05:00AM

"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]

Fake Writers: Gotta Catch 'Em All!

Sheila · 03/08/08 12:08PM

The NYT's Motoko Rich helpfully rounds up all the offenders in the fake-memoir trend. Valley Girl gang-pretender Margaret Seltzer, James Frey, and Laura Albert (aka JT Leroy) are only the tip of the iceberg: "The history of literary fakers stretches far, far back, at least to the 19th century, when a slave narrative published in 1863 by Archy Moore was revealed as a novel written by a white historian, Richard Hildreth..." Meanwhile, Slate wonders, in reponse to Seltzer's claim to be part Native American, "Why do writers pretend to be Indians?" Apparently this, too, is a trend. In related news, As well, the gang-violence-reduction foundation that Seltzer claimed to have founded, called Brother/SisterHood, is now thought to be fake.

Second Disaster Book For Editor Of Fabricator

Ryan Tate · 03/07/08 06:59AM

Riverhead Books editor Sarah McGrath, who shepherded the fake memoir from Margaret Seltzer (left), bought a spectacularly inaccurate memoir once before. In 2006, Scribner canceled McGrath's reported $900,000 deal to buy a memoir from fashion reporter Emily Davies. Women's Wear Daily had publicly fact-checked Davies' 79-page proposal and raised many questions, including about an alleged dinner with Donna Karan, a supposed party with Jennifer Lopez and a dubious meeting involving three industry players. It also found a quote had been lifted from a 1998 Times article. And those weren't the only strikes against Davies — she had been in two prior scandals.

No More One Source Profiles, Says NYT

Hamilton Nolan · 03/06/08 11:30AM

Now that lying author Margaret Seltzer has made the New York Times look like useful idiots for printing a fawning profile of her in which she spouted her stock lies about her ties to the hood, the paper is pushing for some changes. Standards Editor Craig Whitney emails the newsroom today that they shouldn't run any more single-source profiles of people who aren't well known, because they could turn out to be lying schmucks like Margaret Seltzer and make the paper look stupid all over again. Makes sense. Points to the Times for doing some kinda thing, at least! The full internal email, reprinted below.

Fake Memoirist Already Exploited By James Frey

Ryan Tate · 03/05/08 09:22PM

Lying writer James Frey will be damned if he is going to miss an opportunity to milk literary deception for all it's worth, so he's already launched a new publicity campaign, less than 48 hours after newb lying writer Margaret Seltzer got the whole country talking about fake autobiographers again. Of course it's probably just a total coincidence that Frey chose now to launch the new blog where most of the text is copied from other sites, where Frey posts a purported lesbian fantasy video (so not worth it) and where he of course promotes his million-dollar-plus novel the name of which is not important. After the jump, the email Frey just sent out to his adoring fans. Watch and learn BG Seltzer:

Lying Author's Real Trafficking Changes Everything

Ryan Tate · 03/05/08 08:51PM

"Her senior farewell in the 1992 Campbell Hall yearbook reads, 'To my family — I love you all so much, thank you for everything.' Meanwhile, her high school friends call her 'Pegatha,' their 'Skittle supplier' whose hardest drug consumed was 'vanilla coffee for finals.'" [P6]

Lying Author Puts "OG Madd Ronald" On Her "Foundation" Website

Ryan Tate · 03/05/08 06:51AM

Before she was exposed as a well-off suburban girl rather than a hardscrabble gangster, lying memoirist Margaret Seltzer claimed to have set up a "foundation" called International Brother/SisterHood, either to support her backstory, preemptively redeem herself or maybe just somehow swindle more money. (Thanks to commenter Sigerson for spotting the site and Hamud for taking an early crack at it.) The foundation's website appears to have been registered in the name of Seltzer's agent, Faye Bender, and claims the foundation does pretty much whatever you need, from gangland peace negotiations to anti-gang education to mentoring. "Although we were Bloods, we hold no grudges against CRIPS," the site reads. The most outlandish part is easily the biography of Seltzer's alleged "OG" mentor in the Bloods street gang, Madd Ronald, who the site said also goes by the name "Ronald Chatman."

Fact-Checked Memoirs Would Cost $100 Each

Ryan Tate · 03/04/08 10:55PM

"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]

NPR Waiting For Fake Memoirist To Return Message

Ryan Tate · 03/04/08 08:21PM

NPR radio show Tell Me More was all set to air its interview with the author of the memoir Love and Consequences today, but then producers picked up this morning's Times and realized that might not be such a great idea. So they put in a phone call or email or something to the author, Margaret Seltzer, and are eagerly waiting to hear back. In the (likely eternal) meantime, they posted a very brief excerpt of their interview with Seltzer (pen name Margaret Jones), featured after the jump. Also after the jump: Some choice moments from Seltzer's interview with another radio show, WBUR's On Point, in which Seltzer sounds like she's scrambling to keep her lies hidden.