How to Fake a Memoir

Embellish the story without getting caught, Slate scribe suggests
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Mar 12, 2008 4:03 PM CDT
Keep it vague. Dates are verifiable; "awhile" is not.   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Misha Defonseca's memoir left a sticky trail of lies about escaping Nazis and living with wolves. (It turns out wolf saliva isn't an antiseptic.) Tired of careless fabricators, Slate writes a how-to for aspiring fakers:

  • Keep it vague. Dates are verifiable—"awhile" is not.
  • Watch out for tattling siblings. Revenge can be dirty, especially if you kill them off in your faux memoir (as Margaret Seltzer recently discovered).
  • Check your paper trail. That goes for elementary school registers, which gave away Defonseca's real whereabouts.

  • Proofread out the truth. Defonseca left her real name in one edition of her book, her birthdate in another.
  • Important: Don't tell anyone. Nadine Gordimer confessed to her biographer that she embellished an autobiographical essay, then cried foul when he told.
  • Avoid keen eyes. Asking a scholar to blurb your book is like handing a bloody knife to Sherlock Holmes.
  • Confess wisely. Don't deny that you lied, but call it the emotional truth. Says Defonseca, "It's not actually reality, but my reality."