Memoirs of a Goofball
edited: Saturday, February 04, 2006
By Bob Holt
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, February 04, 2006
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Short and simple, tell the truth in your writing, and don't mess with Oprah.
Recent media events have brought to my attention that the lines are being blurred in the art of writing a non-fiction book. And that blurriness may or may not have come as a result of your past cocaine addiction.
I found myself quite troubled by these stories. Non-fiction writers don't need to invent facts or make up lies to complement their writing. That's MY job.
I felt that this case brought up a very important moral question: What exactly constitutes the truth anyway?
As a practicing investigative humorist, I was determined to learn the answer to that question. I contacted a major publisher to whom I had just submitted my memoir to find out the truth about the truth.
ME: I need to know exactly what you're looking for in a memoir.
PUBLISHER: We just want truth, the writer's strength of character, and an uplifting story.
ME: Anything else?
PUBLISHER: New York Times top ten book sales and a TV movie.
ME: See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. Non-fiction is called non-fiction for a reason. My memoir deals with the truth! If I created a series of events in my life to make me look like a super hero, my stories would just be a million little pieces of...
PUBLISHER: But the photos which accompany your memoir have you wearing a cape in many of them.
ME: I look good in a cape. Everybody looks good in a cape. No tights, though.
PUBLISHER: Let's take a look at your memoir which we have on file. It says here as a youth you lived in Palatial Love Manor, a four hundred acre ranch in Arizona. You were home schooled by the Manor's extensive staff of twenty-five Hooters girls. They often asked you to stay after school for extra credit, and you majored in history, because it repeated itself. Is any of this true ?
ME: Well...you see, my memory isn't exactly what it was when I was younger, so it's possible that I made a few mistakes. Actually, I always thought James Frey played guitar for the Eagles in the 1970s.
PUBLISHER: Your story says that you had a troubled childhood. You had problems with the girls most of the time because they thought you were insensitive and egocentric. But you knew that was nonsense, so you didn't care what they thought. As a youth people considered you thoughtless, rude, and self-centered, but you grew out of those youthful ways and developed ignorance.
ME: All right, I had a lot of issues. But how do you know when someone is telling the truth? Websters defines truth as the quality or fact of being true , honest, sincere, accurate, etc.
PUBLISHER: It's hard to say. There are an awful lot of stories you need to cover in a memoir. Sometimes a person needs to just gloss over the more insignificant details in their life, such as facts.
ME: Kind of like the way Stephen Colbert says that "truthiness" is defined as truth which won't be held back by facts. You don't look it up in a book, you look it up in your gut. Has Jayson Blair been informed of this? I know if I'm allowed to make things up for my life story, then I had no idea how brilliant I actually was.
PUBLISHER: Your book says that you were honored for dedication and meritorious service to your local community.
ME: It's true . I just received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Starbucks.
PUBLISHER: And you had a recurring role in an action/ adventure television series?
ME: You can't tell me that getting face time from being in the front row at televised Extreme Championship Wrestling matches in Philadelphia doesn't count.
PUBLISHER: You're stretching the truth way out of shape here. I've recently heard that the total page count of disputed events in a book needs to be five percent or less to fall comfortably within the realm of what's appropriate.
ME: And George Costanza once said, "It's not a lie if YOU believe it." What's appropriate is the truth. Bill Clinton defined truth as depending upon what the meaning of the word "is" is. George W. Bush describes truth as being based on the knowledge he has available to him at the time, which explains a lot.
PUBLISHER: In our opinion all that matters is that people get the message the memoir is trying to convey. A memoir is a subjective retelling of events in which the names, dates and times have been compressed. It doesn't actually have to be true .
ME: It does now. Oprah changed her mind. Time to put some fact checkers and lawyers on the payroll.
PUBLISHER: Good Lord! You've convinced us! We're telling the truth from now on!
PUBLISHER: Just to clarify, your memoir says you were the cause for Nick and Jessica's breakup. I find that hard to believe.
ME: If he gets enough in the settlement, I'll consider going out with Nick. By the way, what percentage of mine is disputed?
PUBLISHER: I'd say about 99.7 percent. Your name and your dedication to the folks at the Maxwell House Recovery Center appear to be accurate.
ME: The truth sets me free again.