Thursday, March 06, 2008

Kabul Beauty School and Other "Memoirs"

So a while ago I read Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez and I really enjoyed it at the time; yet the more I pondered it, the more I became unenamoured with the author. And the more I disliked the author, the more I became suspicious of the veracity of her claims.

Recently NPR had a story about the author and the book, and news has been breaking that this woman is either detached from reality (possible) or a big fat liar. In light of all of the recent 'memoirs' being busted as flat out fiction I'm even more suspicious.

I had been nervous to attend Leigh's book club for the first time last night and give a mixed review of the book, but was utterly relieved when the others agreed. This led to a discussion about whether part of the allure of a memoir is that it is true, or whether all these fake memoirs could have been just as popular if they were released as fictional memoirs instead of non-fiction. We were pretty split on the issue.

My only opinion on the matter is that any memoir that deviates from the truth should be marketed as a separate genre LBOATS (loosely based on a true story). Then everyone is happy. I read an article once saying the Dave Eggers ruined the memoir genre with his loose interpretations of his past. I read his first book, and having read the foreword and publishers notes etc. I was aware that liberties were taken. And I still loved it.

I read a lot of non-fiction and to me the real problem in first person non-fiction writing is that authors tend to include a lot of extraneous detail; as though leaving out details of someone's life will cause hurt feelings. Which they probably would. However, when I'm reading a book I don't want to know the entire back story of every guy on the ship (Thank you very much, Frank Pope). Perhaps this is the best way to tell a fake memoir from a real memoir, just ask yourself, 'am I just a little bit bored?'

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