• The New York Times prints a few letters to the editor about the topic under the heading "Her So-Called Life (Fact-Checking Required)". Interestingly, all four letters chosen have to do with Margaret Jones' publisher doing all the fact-checking, and not the Times....
• Nancy Rommelmann has a marvelous essay on LA Observed, musing about whether the fiasco could be chalked up to provincialism in the New York publishing world. Nancy's conclusion nails it:
Nan A. Talese, who published the sine qua non of the genre, James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, doesn’t like the idea of double-checking an author. “I don’t think there is any way you can fact-check every single book,” she told the Times. “It would be very insulting and divisive in the author-editor relationship.”
Funny, I’ve never been insulted when asked by an editor to check facts, but anyway, this is not really about fact checking; I don’t personally care if someone writes he ate a Pink’s hot dog with grilled onions in March, when actually it was a chili dog in May. What I care about is that the writer – of fiction or memoir – is telling the truth as best he or she can, and I think this is what editors care about, too, or should. Those in New York who do, in fact, wield so much influence; who have such a vast range of culture to choose from and to disseminate, need to have the guts and aptitude to admit, they might not know enough about a subject or region to know whether what they’re reading is the truth, and then, summon the curiosity to find out.
Indeed. But, then again, the publishing industry is so solipsistic that the Los Angeles Times even holds its own announcement ceremony for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes in...New York. Would it hurt the publishers to put a few junior editors on a jetBlue and send them out to L.A. for a night at the Standard? Apparently so, suggests LAT book editor David Ulin:
As to why this is important, well ... like any small, insular industry, publishing can have a very narrow vision; it can be difficult to see outside the fishbowl of New York. You can bemoan this, or you can deal with it, but either way, that’s how it is. If the mountain won’t come to you, in other words, you have to go tell it on the mountain, which is why we announce the Book Prize nominations in New York.
• Galleycat has an interesting email from an anonymous book reviewer who was assigned Love and Consequences. The correspondent doesn't think that it's a reviewer's job to vet memoirs except in cases of egregious claims, and I agree.
• Last: where are the Oregon media on this tale of a Eugene writer taking the New York publishing and newspaper worlds for a ride? Jeff Baker, book editor of The Oregonian, had a good summary piece that the O wisely ran on its front page. The Eugene Register-Guard revealed that it spiked a profile of the liar when it discovered that she'd lied about her educational bona fides (which, it should be noted, is far more due diligence than The New York Times exercised).
Willamette Week ran a blog item. So did the Eugene Weekly. And the Portland Mercury made it clear that they "don’t happen to give a shit if memoirs are “true” or not," which says volumes about both the quality of their arts coverage and their editors' curiosity about anything more than a mile off E. Burnside Avenue.
Is that going to be it? I hope not, particularly given Jones' connection to the eco-saboteur Jeffrey "Free" Luers, and the news this week that he may be released from prison as early as next year after the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned his original 22-year sentence. Since the gang-outreach workers in South Central L.A. have no idea who the hell Margaret Jones is, wouldn't exploring her connections in the Oregon eco-underground be a more fertile field of inquiry?