Last Sunday night, right after I completed my blog post on memoirs, this report about Greg Mortenson appeared on 60 Minutes. Once again, an example of memoir writing gone very, very wrong.
Here is an author (in this case a philanthropist who raises money for an important cause and who apparently takes advantage of his contributors) who has allegedly fictionalized his life experiences. As was the case in the James Frey scandal, this not only hurts the author, his publisher and his readers but also everyone who might want to write a memoir. In my opinion it is morally and ethically reprehensible and totally unacceptable.
To respond to a question I was asked regarding last week’s entry, and which is particularly relevant in light of these new disclosures, memoirs are meant to be true stories about the author who is writing them. Except in rare instances, they should not be written anonymously and never “fictionalized” in any way. Because of the James Freys and Greg Mortensons of this world, every memoirist is under closer scrutiny by publishers.
Good, effective memoir writing is a responsibility—of the author and of the publisher. Here’s hoping Greg Mortenson’s “story” won’t be repeated any time soon.