All right, it’s a field day against memoirists. Again. Gee, I just hate to hear the word “memoir” in the same sentence as “liar.” In the neuro-connections, there’s no gap between accusation and the fine tuned, nuanced “reality” of the person accused.
I don’t know if Greg Mortensen lied the way that James Frey did; or did James Frey “lie” in fiction, and it was turned into memoir by the publisher?
Question: if you conflate time in your story, to keep the reader from being bored to tears, for instance, are you “lying?”
If you combine characters in your story for the purpose of good story telling, so you don’t bore your reader, are you “lying?”
If you exaggerate, are you lying? Most people would say yes, but this is not a problem with writing, this is a problem with ethics. Enter James Frey again, who admitted some exaggerations.
If you are accused of using money improperly in your charitable organization, how do you fight those accusations? Again, this is not about memoir writing, it is about your ethics.
How does the Red Cross, for instance, use its money—how much goes for what the contributor thinks they’re contributing to? How does that compare to Mortensen’s organization, and will anyone find out the real answers before or after they condemn him in the public court?
I’m not defending Greg Mortensen. I don’t know him, never have met him, but I did read his book a few years ago. If he’s doing even part of what he says he’s doing to help schools in the region, I admire that. I learned a great deal about Afghanistan and Pakistan from reading his book. Am I to understand that the villages, the mountains, the dress and the food are also inaccurate?
If you’re a memoirist—again, you’re hanging around with a louche crowd, at the very edges of respectable humanity. Pick up your pen and write about it.