Friday, April 22, 2011

Truth Or Consequences

Years ago, there was a popular TV show called "Truth or Consequences" and it's title  popped into my head when I read recently about the possible deceit in Greg Mortenson's hugely popular memoir book Three Cups of Tea. There are about 5 million copies of this book in print. It made a huge splash in the publishing world when it came out and hit the bestseller list.

Book Clubs embraced the book, news media highlighted it, and readers continued to purchase it. It was a story about educating children in Pakistan as told by this man who experienced all that he placed in his book. And now, years later, it has been learned that he falsified much of what is in the book That the agency he talks about in the book did not give even half its funds to the schools--and more. A good article detailing all this can be read at

This is not the first time we have learned of deceit in a memoir. Memoirs are known as creative nonfiction, but apparently some authors take the creative part to heart. Maybe they fear the real story is not exciting enough to be accepted by a publishing house, that readers wouldn't get enthused by what actually happened. So they begin to embellish a bit here and a bit there. They have a story to tell and they want the world to read it, so why not add a little more pizzazz?

The why not? reason is that truth is of greater importance to a good many people, myself included. If you write creative nonfiction that is suffused with fictional parts throughout, you're eventually going to suffer the consequences. It kind of amazes me that authors who practice this can't figure that out. But perhaps the fame they seek is worth the risk of being found out.

As for me, I'd rather write the tamer truth and be able to live with myself. Mr. Mortenson has disappointed many of his readers. Truth or Consequences indeed!

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