Indian Frauds: Alternet on “Love and Consequences”

From Alternet:

Last month, it was revealed that the New York Times and Manhattan publishing world were deceived by Love and Consequences, a faked memoir by a white girl who claimed to live the life you only hear about in Dr. Dre songs. The damage control was so good, the book never saw daylight, and we never knew how big of an embarrassment this cartoonishly racist gangster fantasy should have been. But last week a copy arrived at my doorstep.

Supposedly written by gangsta moll Margaret B. Jones, Love and Consequences turned out to be the work of middle-class liar Margaret Seltzer. She had invented the tale behind a laptop at Starbucks, tricking not only her publisher, but also her fans at the Times, which graced the memoir with repeated coverage.

After it was revealed her work was a forgery, the damage control was swift and successful. On March 5, with the book just out the door, the New York Times revealed the hoax, if not just how bad it was. Her agent, Faye Bender, told the paper, reassuringly, that “there was no reason to doubt her, ever.” And that set the tone for the coverage. Love & Consequences, wrote the L.A. Times, must have seemed “edgy, sexy, cinematic.”

Except it’s not. As a true story, this book would have been less about “love” and more about crude racial stereotypes. As a hoax, it reads as easily the laziest forgery ever to receive a six-figure advance and a rave review in the Times.

In an important sense, the real scandal was never discovered. Thanks to the book’s speedy recall, we missed what should worry everyone: the catastrophic failure of the New York Times‘s B.S. detectors, which we thought they tuned up after the twin factual fiascos of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller.

Copies are going for $78 online, but one slipped through the blockade. So here, for the first time, are the Cliffs Notes.

Chapter One: Lost

Year: Unknown. Margaret B. Jones watches her friend, “Kraziak,” bite the dust in a hail of AK-47 bullets. This is what we call in media res-opening mid-story.

In this passage, which the Times excerpted, Seltzer places herself in a ghetto battlefield that could have been a video game mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. “We were smoking niggas,” she concludes, after spilling a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor for a dead comrade, “sending them to heaven every day.”

Tipping the 40: almost every under-35 hipster, stoner, or frat boy on a liquor run has at one time trivialized important social problems by joshing about this fabled street rite. Here this Caucasian joke is made flesh, as the amber liquid burns Jones’ throat. A “big homie smiled at me,” she recalls, “and then slipped the remaining cups over the neck of the Hennessey bottle …”

Easily the strongest writing. From here on it speeds downhill, and the story becomes less believable.

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