Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Another fish story
In "Love and Consequences," a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.I read a review of this book & another article, Refugee from Gangland, in the NYT style section, & Jones/Seltzer's story sounded very unlikely to me, too neat, her contacts with the 'hood & gang associates that I didn't believe someone getting out of that life would maintain as closely as she did, but I thought, what the heck, anything is possible. As it turned out, it not only wasn't possible for her, it wasn't even her story.
The problem is that none of it is true.
Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.
I have nothing against the fictionalized memoir, if it's presented as such & if the core of the story is true. * I've toyed with the idea myself by writing a few short "what if?" chapters about my experiences as small town kid in a rock band who found himself around addicts, drug dealers, low level mob guys, prostitutes, insane radical leftists, denizens of Andy Warhol's outer fringes, the embryonic Asbury Park music scene, & committed sexual amoralists. All that is true. I imagined myself participating in what they offered rather than, as I mostly did, observing with an endless astonishment, as if I was watching a Fellini film. The object wasn't to tell my story, but to paint a landscape of the late Sixties underground in Jersey. I would admit I was lying. Yes, I heard Springsteen long before he had a record contract. No, I never actually smoked pot with him under the boardwalk.
*Or the author is a renowned bullshitter, like poet Kenneth Rexroth & jazz great Charles Mingus.