The lie that ate Manhattan

5 March, 2008
Rat Fink

jones1.jpgSo, say you write a book – your autobiography, detailing your triumph over gang membership, physical abuse, drugs, and basically a future with no hope. Then the book hits the New York Times Bestseller List. Your literary agent secures a national tour. Sales go through the roof. You’re on your way to achieving what many people (including Yours Truly) only dream about: being viewed as a truly fine writer.

Then the wheels fall off when your sister tells your publisher that your entire story was a hoax. Made up. Fabricated. You were not a half-Native American, half-Caucasian waif, unmercifully abused and forced to sell drugs at 10 years old. Rather, you were an upper-middle-class princess, raised by her parents in Sherman Oaks.

Then there’s James Frey, whose A Million Little Pieces, an autobiographical tale of escaping a vicious world of crime and drugs, became so popular that Oprah Winfrey recommended it to all her viewers – only to find out later that, yep, you guessed it: it was all a big fat lie.

What causes people to do this? I mean…do they not think for a minute that folks might check their stories? Do they think they won’t be found out when they include their mugshot photos in the book, complete with police department booking numbers?

That’s what Frey did – and some cop saw it. And checked. Then the house of cards came tumbling down.

misha1.jpgAnd worst – WORST – of all: There’s a 71-year-old lady in Massachusetts named Misha who told a huge lie about living with wolves as a 5-year-old Holocaust survivor on the run. And what did she do when Jane Daniel, her publisher, got suspicious and tried to back out after the book went to press and sold a million copies?

The old gal sued Daniel for $23 million……and won.

And the drama ain’t over yet. Daniel is now challenging the court’s ruling, claiming that the lawsuit was bogus because everything the publishing company did was predicated on Misha’s story being true.

So, what’s the lesson in this? I have to quote my mother here. “If you always tell the truth, you’ll never have to keep track of what you say, and you’ll never have to apologize for lying.”

Yeah – especially to the national media.

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