Teaching Mnemosyne to lie

Ray Davies, in his guise as a Muswell Hillbilly, came up with this gem: “Take me back to those black hills / That I have never seen.”

The Kinks didn’t sell a lot of records with this premise, but people have followed in Davies’ footsteps just the same:

In Love and Consequences, a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Really? None of it?

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.

This calls to mind Mary McCarthy’s dismissal of Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including a, an, and the.

Apparently Ms Seltzer was unclear on the concept:

You know, the rules of a memoir are pretty simple. If an event actually happened to you, you can use it in a memoir. If it didn’t actually happen to you, you can’t. Because then it’s fiction, you see. Which is different from a memoir. No, really; you can look it up. I’m not sure why this has suddenly become so difficult for everyone to process.

So if I started such a thing, I’d have to leave the following out:

…my battlefield commission during my Army days; the actress (not yet a legend) who joined me for lunch one day in Hollywood and stayed for a week and a half; the work of fan fiction in which I play a minor operative of Karl Rove’s; the incident that got my real-estate license suspended indefinitely; the time I caught (so to speak) a fly ball with the side of my head (only minor injuries); and, of course, meeting Morgan Fairchild.

Oh, wait. Not all of those are fake. Still, if you see something like this under the name of, oh, G. Pruitt, be suspicious.


  1. McGehee »

    4 March 2008 · 10:11 pm

    It depends on what the meaning of a, an, and the are.

  2. McGehee »

    4 March 2008 · 10:13 pm

    Mine would be Ward Leung. There are probably more people in rural Iowa named Leung, than people in any part of Hong Kong named Ward.

  3. Flack »

    5 March 2008 · 2:05 pm

    I wouldn’t say everything she wrote was false. For example, she said that she was half-white. That part’s true … it’s just that the other half was white too. That’s at least 50% right …

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