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.

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 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.

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.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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