Fake memoirs

Fake memoirs form a category of literary forgery in which a wholly or partially fabricated autobiography, memoir or journal of an individual is presented as fact. In some cases, the purported author of the work is also a fabrication. In recent years, there have been a number of such memoirs published by major publishers, some that were well received critically and became best sellers, even though subsequently proven to be partially or completely fabricated. A number of recent fake memoirs fall into the category of "misery lit," where the authors claim to have overcome bereavement, abuse, addiction, poverty and other overwhelming losses. Several more have detailed fabricated stories of Holocaust survival, with at least one having been penned by an actual Holocaust victim.

As a result of the recent series of best selling memoirs having been outed for falsification, there have been calls for stronger vetting and fact checking of an author's material.[1]

Public reception

A number of fake memoirs in recent years have been published by renowned publishing houses and received critical acclaim only to be exposed as partial or complete fabrications. Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood (Binjamin Wilkomirski), The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams (Nasdijj),[2] Love and Consequences (Margaret Seltzer),[3] and Go Ask Alice (Anonymous)[4] garnered praise from the New York Times prior to being exposed as false. Love and Consequences (Margaret Seltzer) and Odd Man Out (Matt McCarthy) were published by Penguin Group USA. A Million Little Pieces was published by Random House.

Two authors of recent fake memoirs, James Frey (A Million Little Pieces), and Herman Rosenblat (who was featured prior to writing Angel at the Fence), as well as an imposter assuming the name Anthony Godby Johnson (A Rock and a Hard Place), appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. All eventually had their mendacity made public, and the scheduled publication of Rosenblat's book was cancelled. Frey, accompanied by his editor Nan Talese, was confronted by Oprah during a follow-up episode.[5] The controversy over falsified memoirs inspired Andrea Troy to pen her satiric novel, Daddy – An Absolutely Authentic Fake Memoir (2008).

List of fake memoirs and journals

See also


  1. "Lies and Consequences: Tracking the Fallout of (Another) Literary Fraud", New York Times, 2008-03-05, p. B1. See also "A Family Tree of Literary Fakers," New York Times, 2008-03-08, p. A17.
  2. 1 2 Nasdijj (5 March 2009). "The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping ,Nasdijj, 9780345453891 - Powell's Books".
  3. 1 2 Barnes & Noble. "Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival". Barnes & Noble.
  4. 1 2 Patti Smith. "Used, New, and Out of Print Books - We Buy and Sell - Powell's Books".
  5. 1 2 Carr, David (30 January 2006). "How Oprahness Trumped Truthiness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  6. "Outing a Counterfeit Guerrilla: A tale of lies by Tamil Tigress Niromi de Soyza". Groundviews.
  7. "Forbidden Fruits: Niromi de Soyza's "Tamil Tigress", Noumi Kouri and Helen Demidenko?". Groundviews.
  8. Hill, Benjamin; Schwarz, Alan (3 March 2009). "Errors Cast Doubt on a Baseball Memoir". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  9. "Publication of disputed Holocaust memoir canceled". Associated Press. 27 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  10. "Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction". The New York Times. 4 March 2008.
  11. J. Michael Houlahan, “Fiction as Fact: False Memories of WWII in the Philippines”, Asia-Pacific Social Science Review (De La Salle University, Manila) 10:2 (2010), pp. 83–86.
  12. Sascha Weinzheimer Jansen, Philippine Scouts Heritage Website, http://www.philippine-scouts.org/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1271251020
  13. "CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  14. Dowd, Maureen (8 January 2006). "Oprah's Bunk Club". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  15. Poniewozik, James (26 January 2006). "Oprah Clarifies Her Position: Truth, Good. Embarrassing Oprah, Very Bad". Time. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  16. Knox, Malcolm (24 July 2004). "Bestseller's Lies Exposed". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  17. Holocaust Book Hoax See also
  18. "Other Voices 2.1 (February 2000), Renata Salecl "Why One Would Pretend to be a Victim of the Holocaust"".
  19. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Harcourt Inc., 2008, p. 82
  20. Peskin, Harvey (19 April 1999). "Holocaust Denial: A Sequel", The Nation
  21. Carmen, Leon (15 March 1997). "Leon and a ruse called Wanda". The Daily Telegraph. News Corporation. pp. 30–31.
  22. "Excerpt Four: Revealing a Literary Hoax: The Strange Case of Anthony Godby Johnson".
  23. "Mutant Message Down Under".
  24. "BOOK NEWS Other literary hoaxes", Los Angeles Times, 2008-03-09
  25. Rorvik, David Michael (1978). In his Image: The Cloning of a Man. Philadelphia and New York City: J. B. Lippincott. ISBN 978-0-397-01255-8. The author (Rorvik) intentionally left the word "his" uncapitalized in the title of this book. See Talk:David Rorvik
  26. "The Cloning of a Man".
  27. The Education of Little Tree and Forrest Carter
  28. "Curiouser and Curiouser": Fact, Fiction, and the Anonymous Author of Go Ask Alice
  29. "The Greatest Escape - war hero who walked 4,000 miles from Siberian death camp".
  30. Levinson, Hugh (30 October 2006). "Walking the talk?". BBC News, International version. BBC News. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  31. Dennis Ellam and Adam Lee Potter (16 May 2009). "The Greatest Escape – war hero who walked 4,000 miles from Siberian death camp". Mirror.co.uk.
  32. Скрадзенае жыццё Вітальда Глінскага (Belarusian)
  33. Evans, Martin H. & Hooper, Geoffrey: "Three misleading diaries: John Knyveton MD - from naval surgeon's mate to man-midwife." International Journal of Maritime History (2014) 26: 762-788.
  34. Hooper, Geoffrey: BMJ, 344:e3019 (2012)
  35. Eugene L. Rasor, English/British Naval History to 1815: A Guide to the Literature (2004) p. 226.
  36. Colby, Anne (2008-03-14). "Meet the grandmother of memoir fabricators". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  37. (1 September 1906). Saturday Review of Books, p. BR537.
  38. Howes, US-IANA, S654
  39. Richard R. Flores, Remembering the Alamo : Memory, Modernity, and the Master Symbol, Univ. of Texas (2002), p. 139.
  40. New York Herald, 1836-08-12, p.2, col. 1 ; The Colophon, pt. 17, 1934.
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