When fantasy and fiction are abandoned for fake realities

First came news that Misha Defonseca's horrific memoir Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years--in which she describes living with a pack of wolves as a child, treking 1,900 miles across Europe in search of her deported parents, killing a German soldier in self-defense, and oh, yeah, being Jewish--wasn't true. Now it turns out that the author of another high profile memoir, Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones (a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer), isn't a "half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers (and) running drugs for the Bloods."

So these authors turn out to be liars who conned a reading public into believing fiction as fact. Personally, I haven't read either of these two authors so I can't evaluate the stories they told. Still, I find it funny that people are using the terms "fantasy" and "fiction" to describe these women's fake lives. Aside from the obvious pun, these terms hint at a bigger problem with these memoirs: that the authors felt the only way their stories could get attention was to pass them off as real.

A few millennia ago, there was no division between fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and memoir. Storytellers felt free to mix amazing events with real life happenings, such as occurred in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Audiences readily accepted this practice, enjoying the stories and seeing the truth that existed within them. Then humanity became more sophisticated and began to see myth for myth and reality for reality. Soon came the demands that our stories adhere to this artificial division. The result of this is that in the pantheon of truth-telling, fiction and fantasy are now considered the bastard stepchilds to "real" writings like journalism, memoir, and nonfiction. To understand the truths of the world, people turn to these newer genres. The irony, though, is that people who have written in these "real" genres know that fiction and fantasy still abound. Show me one piece of so-called real writing, and I'll show you any number of fantasies within the piece.

I haven't read these two author's memoirs, so I won't vouch for their stories (let alone condone their lies). They deserve all they crap that's now falling upon their heads. But I also know that a world which demands nothing but absolute accuracy in its nonfiction, and considers fiction and fantasy to have little relation to reality, are setting up all these story-telling genres to fail. There are truths which can only be told through fiction and fantasy. There are truths which can only be told through nonfiction and memoir. And there are truths which can only be expressed through the intersection of all of the above. Both writers and readers would do well to remember this.