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Liars Exposed

03/12/08 7:55AM By Leora Dowling
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(HOST) Writer-commentator Leora Dowling says that another liar has been exposed.  Well, actually, three liars - and none of them are politicians.  

(DOWLING) Two more memoirs, a genre that relies on honesty, have been exposed as fiction.

The most well-publicized incident is the book "Love and Consequences" by Margaret B. Jones, whose real name is Margaret Seltzer.  She wrote about the challenges of growing up half white and half native America in gang-drenched L.A.  In real life Margaret grew up in an affluent suburb and attended private school.

Then there is the strange case of the Massachusetts-based Belgian author, Misha DeFonseca.  Her 1997 book, "Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust," has been translated into 18 languages and was about to be published in the U.S.  She now admits that she never lived with wolves or killed a German solider - and she’s not Jewish.  But she says, "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving,"

Last time I checked, that was called fiction.

Ms. Seltzer and Ms. DeFonseca - real name Monique De Wael - are both currently groveling.

What were they thinking?

Probably the same thing Food Network chef and author of "Mission: Cook," Robert Irvine was thinking when he concocted an elaborate biography for himself.  Irvine, an Englishman, claimed to have been knighted, to own a castle in Scotland, and even to have helped in the preparation of Lady Diana’s wedding cake.

How did they do it?  Not, how did they perpetrate their hoaxes - there have always been fakes and frauds - but how did they sleep at night?  Were their egos so big?  Did they think their talent so small?  Or were they so desperate for celebrity and money that they were willing to risk everything?

In this media-saturated world they knew their faces were out there. Surely it must have crossed their minds that they’d be exposed, in Mr. Irvine’s case by Buckingham palace, and in Ms. Seltzer’s by her own sister.

Perhaps all three spent too much time watching the many episodes of "Seinfeld" in which Jerry’s friend, George Costanza, masqueraded as someone he wasn’t: an architect named Art Vandalay, and later a marine biologist.  Too bad they forgot that George got caught - he couldn’t save the whale.

But in a culture of duplicity and hype - surrounded by on-line anonymity, cyber-world avatars, and  edited "reality" TV, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when people try to foist well-crafted fiction off as personal truth.

Still, I can remain disappointed.

And hopeful that no publisher decides to buy the inevitable memoir about writing a false memoir.

All three should be ashamed of themselves, but I doubt they are.  Their tears are wet, but they’re good actors.  I suspect they’re crying because they’re sorry they got caught.
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