A Funny Thing To Do

If you happen to be bored, read reviews of books whose authors were publicly shamed or identified as frauds after the review was written.  Par example:

Sarah: A Novel by J. T. Leroy

Scary, sad, and way, way out there, Leroys [sic] picaresque debut novel follows a young boy through southern truckstops, where lot lizards turn tricks for drivers whose tastes run from women to transvestites to boys in jeans. Sarah is actually the name of our heros mother, and in the beginning they both work for Glad [sic], a fairly nice pimp who treats his whores decently and serves them up to a not-too-rough clientele. But when the boy appropriates his mothers name and gender (at least in appearance) to go wandering, he winds up in the clutches of a really bad guy named Le Loup. The gory details of how Sarah is abused by this monster and his cohorts will come as no surprise to those familiar with Leroys journalistic pieces (in Spin, Nerve, New York Press) under the pseudonym Terminator, some of which dealt with his own experiences. Its [sic] disturbing to encounter a 20-year-old who knows this much about lifes [ed note: why isn’t this reviewer familiar with the possessive?] seamy side, but Leroy depicts his damaged, degraded characters with considerable tenderness. Not exactly a laugh riot, but not as unrelievedly sordid as a plot synopsis might suggest.  –– From Kirkus Reviews

The funniest part of this review is of course that the writer wasn’t 20 and knew shit about life’s seamy side!

And about A Million Little Pieces, pre-scandal:

Frey is pretender to the throne of the aggressive, digressive, cocky Kings David: Eggers and Foster Wallace. Pre-pub comparisons to those writers spring not from Frey’s writing but from his attitude: as a recent advance profile put it, the 33-year-old former drug dealer and screenwriter “wants to be the greatest literary writer of his generation.” While the Davids have their faults, their work is unquestionably literary. Frey’s work is more mirrored surface than depth, but this superficiality has its attractions. With a combination of upper-middle-class entitlement, street credibility garnered by astronomical drug intake and PowerPoint-like sentence fragments and clipped dialogue, Frey proffers a book that is deeply flawed, too long, a trial of even the most na‹ve reader’s credulousness-yet its posturings hit a nerve. This is not a new story: boy from a nice, if a little chilly, family gets into trouble early with alcohol and drugs and stays there. Pieces begins as Frey arrives at Hazelden, which claims to be the most successful treatment center in the world, though its success rate is a mere 17%. There are flashbacks to the binges that led to rehab and digressions into the history of other patients: a mobster, a boxer, a former college administrator, and Lilly, his forbidden love interest, a classic fallen princess, former prostitute and crack addict. What sets Pieces apart from other memoirs about 12-stepping is Frey’s resistance to the concept of a higher power. The book is sure to draw criticism from the recovery community, which is, in a sense, Frey’s great gimmick. He is someone whose problems seem to stem from being uncomfortable with authority, and who resists it to the end, surviving despite the odds against him. The prose is repetitive to the point of being exasperating, but the story, with its forays into the consciousness of an addict, is correspondingly difficult to put down. — from Publishers’ Weekly

This review isn’t as funny to read if only because it says the book is bad, and therefore still holds water now, but I like it because it makes fun of Frey for being a total dick, which he is.

And finally, Love and Consequences, written by a mixed-race foster child from the ghetto who turned out to actually be way white private-school educated Margaret Seltzer.

Jones was only five years old when she was taken away from her family after a teacher noticed signs of sexual abuse. After being bounced around from house to house for three years, Jones’ caseworker takes her to South Central Los Angeles and the home of Big Mom, a tough, religious African American woman caring for her four grandchildren. Here, Jones finally finds a home and a family and quickly learns the rules of the neighborhood, which is run by the Bloods. Her two older brothers, Tyrell and Taye, join the gang, and Jones longs to as well, even after both brothers go to jail for different offenses. In spite of terrible losses—Jones calls a friend she saw just the night before and learns that he has been murdered—Jones becomes a provider for her family by running drugs. Eventually, she surprises even herself by doing what she once thought was impossible: getting into college and leaving South Central. Raw and powerful, Jones’ memoir is unforgettable, painting a vivid picture of a world most of us turn away from, one that thrives on loyalty and love amid all the bloodshed. — a Booklist Starred Review

There are many other books you can do this with (An Angel at the Fence, or Forbidden Love, and the list sadly goes on) and it’s a great activity for an afternoon when you’re feeling perhaps like you’ve done something really wrong.  “Well, at least I didn’t write a memoir about walking across Europe looking for my parents during the Third Reich and then being adopted by a pack of wolves even though I grew up in Schenectady!”

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