Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What was the woman thinking?

Something puzzles me about the latest literary controversy. And no, it's not just the literal absence of the fact-checking process, although that is puzzling too. For how could an editor collaborate with an author for more than three years and not know that at least some of the author's story was false? This suggests to me that the author "Margaret B. Jones" was at least an accomplished actress (and a gifted writer) -- she kept up appearances without slipping, for three whole years! But then what was the woman thinking granting an interview to the NY Times Magazine? Did she think that the Magazine was the local Community Reporter (a local rag that arrives -- unsolicited -- in my mailbox every week)? Did she not realize that, with a story like hers, that was so transparently false, would be instantly revealed? (Incidentally it was her sister who blew the whistle on the affair, which suggests to me that the two sisters are not going to be calling each other anytime soon).

And then, finally, there's the book itself. From all accounts, it seems very well-written and a powerful piece of work. I realize the public (and the literary establishment) doesn't like being made a fool of. But there's a difference between Stephen Glass-style fabulism (he was writing for The New Republic and was in essence scamming its readers, who expected political coverage) and a fabricated but nevertheless gritty look at life growing up on the streets of L.A. I think perhaps after some appropriate punishment for Ms Seltzer, Riverhead Books should reissue the book -- only this time as a novel. She seems like too much of a good writer to ostracize.