Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Coming Soon to Bookshelves Near You, My Fake Memoir

James Frey: "Am I being lectured on honesty by Gayle King's wife?!"

Was anyone actually surprised earlier this week when Margaret Seltzer, author of the recently published (and even more recently pulled from shelves) "Love and Consequences," joined the ranks of publicly shamed con artist memoirists like the hacky, machismo-obsessed James Frey and Misha Defonseca, better known as phony Holocaust memoir lady? Didn't Mimi Read's recent New York Times piece on Seltzer, then identified by her pseudonym, Margaret B. Jones, raise a red flag or twelve? (Even Seltzer's body language is guilty in the main photo that accompanied the article.) My favorite quotes from the faux-thug version of JT LeRoy, for posterity's sake:
Her memoir is an intimate, visceral portrait of the gangland drug trade of Los Angeles as seen through the life of one household: a stern but loving black grandmother working two jobs; her two grandsons who quit school and became Bloods at ages 12 and 13; her two granddaughters, both born addicted to crack cocaine; and the author, a mixed-race white and Native American foster child who at age 8 came to live with them in their mostly black community. She ended up following her foster brothers into the gang, and it was only when a high school teacher urged her to apply to college that Ms. Jones even began to consider her future.

"Why take out loans? I figured I'd be dead," she said. "One of the first things I did once I started making drug money was to buy a burial plot."

Read presumably edited out the part where Seltzer continued, "Death ain't nothing but a heartbeat away/ I'm livin' life do-or-die, what can I say?/ I'm 23 now but will I live to see twenty-fo'?/ The way things are goin' I don't know."

"The reason I wanted to write the book is that all the time, people would say to me, you're not what I imagine someone from South L.A. would be like," she said, curled up on her living room sofa, which was jacketed in a brown elasticized cover from Target. Her feet rested on a chunky coffee table from World Market. The house smelled of black-eyed peas, which were stewing with pork neck bones — a dish from the repertory of her foster mother, known as "Big Mom," whose shoe box of recipes she inherited.

"I guess people get their ideas from TV, which is so one-dimensional and gives you no back story," she said.
Whereas Seltzer got her ideas from "The Outsiders" and repeated viewings of Dangerous Minds, which tell it like it is, hardcore.
A shelf above her desk holds an altar of family snapshots, with many more black faces than white. "This is my brother who's dead, back when he was in juvie," she said, pointing out Terrell’s face in a picture frame.
Shades of Terminator being HIV-positive, isn't it?
Ms. Jones gave birth to her daughter while she was still in college, then graduated with a degree in ethnic studies. She stayed on in Eugene. Rya's father, she said, was "the first white guy I ever dated, and she was the first white baby I ever saw. I said, she looks sickly, is there something wrong with her?"
As George Takei would say, "Oh my."
"The first time my o. g. visited me here" — meaning original gangster, the gang's leader — "he slept 20 hours straight. In L.A. your anxiety is so high you sleep three hours a night."
I hear that for an encore, Seltzer sang "Rolling with the Homies" to Read. I won't even get into her comments about the fictional Big Mom and perfect buttermilk cornbread. What's astonishing, in reading what Seltzer had to say about her fake life and fake book before her deception was revealed, is that no one called her on all of her hilariously dated homie and o.g. and 'hood lingo. If it's this easy to get a bogus memoir published, I think it's time to quit my day job and get to work on my life story. The question is, since alcoholism, drug addiction, the Holocaust, transgenderism, teenage hookerdom, and now the South L.A. gang scene have already been exploited by crazy and largely talentless hucksters, what should I choose as my angle? Would it strike anyone as overly derivative if I presented myself as a transgendered concentration camp escapee who covered my numbered tattoo with "FTBSITTTD" and went to live with the zany extended family of a wayward psychiatrist?

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