"In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream." Holocaust fabulist Herman Rosenblatt, on his debunked memoir, "Angel at the Fence."
"I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me." Best-selling Christian author Neale Donald Walsch, on why he plagiarized an essay about another writer's child's Christmas pageant story.
Are you there, memory? It's me, Author.
Listen, things are getting a little hairy down here for me and I thought that maybe we should talk. I'm not mad or anything but, you know, how should I say this, you're kind of screwing things up for me. I really needed that advance. It was big. Really big. Seven figures big and now it's gone, all because of you and that big, fat imagination.
Here's the deal. People are claiming that I'm embellishing, making things up, stealing other people's recollections. Readers, publishers, reporters, the joint is lousy with 'em. Ninety-eight weeks on the bestseller list and now they're calling me a fake. Me, memory! The writer guy who's given you a life of luxury, the private schools for the kids, the summer cottage in Maine. And unless you start keeping your trap shut it's all going to disintegrate into a million little pieces faster than you can say apples over a Buchenwald fence.
My fault, you say? Well, okay, maybe I had a little bit to do with it, but I was just following your orders. You drive this bus, memory; I'm just along for the ride. If you tell me that I'm an outlaw who's wanted in three states, well, heck, I'm an outlaw. Three months in a jail ain't nothin' to me, Jimmy Frey, Jimmy Frey. More like two hours in jail? Yeah, whatever. My point, memory, is that if you tell me I'm a half-Native American gang member in L.A., like Margaret Seltzer in Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival, I'm down with that, homie. (That chick once said something while we were kicking some Crips' ass. She said, Bloods live hard on the street and we die hard on the street, especially the Valley Girl Bloods who come from solid families and went to private school.)
I'm good, mem. See, I'm not flaking out on 'ya. You know I've never been afraid of an adventure here and there. Didn't I stick with you when we hiding in the forest from the Nazis in Misha? Those kindly wolves were totally awesome. I mean, I watch the Discovery Channel in HD all the time, but nurturing wolves in a holocaust? Get Out Of Town! That was killer material. And what about when we were JT LeRoy -- er, Laura Victoria Albert -- living a life of drugs and prostitution. Terminator! And that title: The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Well, almost all things, as it turned out, but still, very close.
Look, we go way back. If it weren't for you, memory, I wouldn't have any, well, memory of my own childhood. You know, growing up in Kansas. Fryin' up a mess o' catfish. Goin' down to the general store. Gettin' a piece of gingham for Emmy Lou. Hey, wait a sec. That's an old Woody Allen stand-up routine. Memory! I'm trying to be serious with you here and you're still fucking around. How's that? It sounds cooler than hanging out at the Plainview Diner? Well, you're probably right about that, but then so does landing amid sniper fire in Bosnia.
But you're getting me all off-point. Listen, The Times called yesterday and I panicked a bit. I'm telling you, these reporters and bloggers, with their pesky questions about facts and figures. I told them, "All I can say now -- because I am truly mystified and taken aback by this -- is that someone must have sent [the story] to me over the Internet ten years or so ago. Finding it utterly charming and its message indelible, I must have clipped and pasted it into my file of 'stories to tell that have a message I want to share.' I have told the story verbally so many times over the years that I had it memorized...and then, somewhere along the way, internalized it as my own experience."
What's that you say? Wordy? Very funny, memory. I'd like to see you do any better. Say what? Oh, give me a freakin' break. James Frey didn't say that. He said, "My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience." There's no way that sounds better than mine. Besides, either answer is still way better than that nice Mr. Rosenblatt, who said, "my mother came to me in a dream and said that I must tell my story...." My mother comes to me in dreams, too, but she's always telling me to take out the garbage.
Listen, I gotta run. We'll talk later, okay? Stay out of trouble. And if you're bored, maybe you can keep reminding me I once dated a supermodel. I'd like to internalize that someday as my own memory.
Hey, by the way, did you see that Laura Bush just got one-six for her memoir? At least we know she's good for it. Though I did notice that she said in an interview on FOX last week that after 9/11, "I was in Austin visiting Jenna... and I went to a store there, a department store, and the women behind the cosmetic counters thanked me for talking about the women of Afghanistan."
I'm sure she's right. You know those Texas cosmetics counter ladies and their Afghan concerns. Memory, you old dog!