This morning, the news broke that Margaret B. Jones’s just published Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival (Riverhead) is malarkey. That’s two bunk memoirs I’ve assigned to my knowledge (the other being James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces). Both were starred reviews, but I’m not cowering under my desk in embarrassment. I’ve always approached memoirs with caution—the promo copy to Frey’s book made me heehaw in incredulity—but just because I find a premise preposterous doesn’t mean I don’t assign it.
Memoirs are increasingly the publishing equivalents of the supermarket tabloids. Book sellers can push the hell out of grotesque, heartbreaking, gory stories, and readers tend to respond strongly to "true-life" content, regardless of how crappily it’s written (I remember arguing the difference between content and content as it’s written with my reviewer on Frey’s book). My point is, if the people are going to hear about a book, it needs to be on library shelves, plain and simple.
That said, I do wish there was more of a screening process to catch these sad souls before their books go to press. Embarrassments like this cost publishers money, and their coffers ain’t exactly bursting. But who knows: Maybe the truth doesn’t matter to a public who loves to follow the pitfalls of Britney Spears. Her story is almost unbelievable.