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June 07, 2008


Jason Erik Lundberg

What's interesting about the Lyall article is that the whole authenticity angle is speculative. She's taken one essay written last year about a book that Sedaris wrote ten years ago (what? he couldn't manage to find one a bit more recent?) to couch the new book in this miasma of possible controversy, which in the end doesn't amount to much.

The piece Lyall refers to, "This American Lie" by Alex Heard (http://www.eden.rutgers.edu/~edfu/essays/others/americanlie.txt ), reads less like investigative fact-checking, and more like petulant I-told-you-sos. Plus, with his messy argumentation and righteous indignation, he never really proves his point; where are his sources? Documentation? Research? Are we just supposed to believe what he's writing? For an article that bangs the drum of honesty and accountability, Heard provides precious little himself.

Of course people don't always talk the way they do in Sedaris' essays; the flow of the dialogue, and lack of pauses, and ums, uhs, and ers, should have been the first clue. Memoir is about recreating the feel of the moment, not reproducing every single happening like the most tedious Twitter posting. He admits to embellishing and exaggerating, but as long as he's not making things up wholesale, this whole issue is just a tempest in a teapot.


I think we tend to care about truth when there's something at stake. When it asks a reader to become emotionally involved in something he's reading. We don't really get emotionally involved in humor, or at least not in a way where there's any regrets. Funny is funny and whether it's true or not is an afterthought. Frey was asking people to divest emotionally in something supposedly true, and truth weighs on the decision to take that journey, it requires more trust of the author, and readers want to know that the stairs are not going to fall out from under them as they walk up it.


its so funny listening to people justify dave sedaris making shit up just because he's dave sedaris. humor, emotion.. blah blah. the truth of the matter is dave sedaris is dave sedaris because of the non-fiction billing. if he was labeled as a fiction writer, he'd just be average.

people don't like james frey because he's done what they can't do. found a way to succesfully market himself nationally and internationally. he sells books. lots of them. don't hate the playa. the game is sick.


barry: I don't necessarily disagree with what you're saying. That's kind of a different discussion, whether lying or telling the truth makes an author successful in this market. I was justifying Sedaris over Frey from a purely ethical point of view, weighing the severity of trust and betrayal.


hey hey hey, yeah i wasn't really talking about you or any one in particular it's just strange to me. but i enjoyed your comment very much. discussing and comparing and justifying the ethics of one liar over another. that's funny. i like you.


Your comment got me wiki-ing 'lie' because you seem to take the biblical position, ie. liars are liars and they're all on the same plain ethically; evil. There's an interesting section on the wikipedia lie page that lists out all the different kinds of lies people tell. I'd fit Frey into the 'exaggeration' type and Sedaris into the 'jocose lie' type.

Also an interesting thing written by Augustine of Hippo in 395AD, from his book de Mendacio (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1312.htm)...

'Setting aside, therefore, jokes, which have never been accounted lies, seeing they bear with them in the tone of voice, and in the very mood of the joker a most evident indication that he means no deceit, although the thing he utters be not true: touching which kind of discourse, whether it be meet to be used by perfect minds, is another question which we have not at this time taken in hand to clear; but setting jokes apart, the first point to be attended to, is, that a person should not be thought to lie, who lies not.'


hahahahaha. see now thats classic. exactly what im talking about, quoting wikipedia (really? wikipedia?) and augustine, to defend sedaris? why go to those lengths?

my thought process has nothing to do with the bible. when you say something that ISN'T true - that's called a lie. i learned that in kindergarden. i don't need to consult wikipedia.

the real truth is that this conversation doesn't mean anything. sedaris and frey will both go on selling books no matter what anyone else thinks.


okie dokie.

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