Autobiographies/Memoirs With Deliberate Factual Misstatements Or Lies?

Has anyone ever read an autobiography or memoir that you felt (even if you are not necc. certain) contained deliberate factual misstatements or just some good old-fashoned bullshit lies?

I am reading a book now (George Tenet’s “At The Center Of The Storm” about his experiences directing the CIA from 1997-2004) that I believe has some factual untruths woven into it’s otherwise very well written (and seemingly honest, truthful) content.

(I only mention the specific book here because it is what spurred this question—I dont want this to be about politics or any one particular book)

There are two other books I have read in the recent past that I would bet also contain accounts of events or things that never really happened or that are so wildly different from what actually did happen that they are all but unrecogniseable, though these are just my personal feelings, and I will never know if I am right, or if my B.S. detector is way off on this.

Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles-Volume One”

Augusten Burroughs’ “Running With Scissors”

Now I have never met Bob Dylan or Augusten Burroughs before, and I have nothing factual to base my feelings on, but in my opinion, both of these memoirs have a lot of things described in them that probably never really actually happened, or if they did happen are exaggerated about in such a way as to make them virtually untrue.

Again, these are just a couple of examples (and for the record I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan’s musical legacy) but I am wondering if any of you have similar examples of memoirs that dont pass your “sniff test” even if all you have to go on is a gut feeling that someone is full of it.

Sarah Palin’s book is automatically off the table.:wink:

Sports bios are notorious for spinning provably counter-factual BS wholesale.

Frey: A Million Little Pieces. Clearly lies, even before the press substantiated this.

Khouri: Honor Lost. Ditto.

I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies.

I just assume that as a reader I’m getting the version of the story that the writer wants me to get. Even in the most painfully honest autobiography, all you’re getting is one person’s view of events.

I’ve certainly read some autobiographies that strike me as being more fiction than fact, but even the most painfully honest one is going to be edited and shaped for consumption.

Imagine if you had a machine wired up to your brain that noted down every single thought that ever crossed your mind. Bits of it would be interesting, but most of it would be incredibly tedious. It certainly wouldn’t tell a coherent story.

Imagine you have a diary and note down every single thing that happens over the course of your days. How much of that would be readable and interesting and how much would be deadly dull? Even the most interesting and exciting lives contain a large amount of boring crap.

The idea of a life history is to tell a story. Not to present an exact record. So events get simplified, and things get edited out. And that’s not taking into account things like vanity, faulty memories, and the fact that any two different people will almost invariably interpret the same event in two different ways.

Autobiography is interesting, but taking anyone’s version as the unvarnished truth seems a bit naive to me. They’re more interesting as a way of finding out what a person wants you to believe than as a way of finding out what actually happened.

Semi-off-topic, but I find the words “this is a true story” to be a warning that large amounts of bullshit will soon be appearing in your path, and “based on a true story” is notice that what follows is very different to what actually happened and should not be treated as anything other than complete fiction.

Peter Wright’s Spycatcher became a best seller due to the British government’s attempts to ban its publication. Unfortunately it turned out later to mostly be rubbish but Wright appears to have been more a disgruntled nutcase than a deliberate liar.

Awww man! I was totally going to get into Going Rouge … er … Going Rogue.

I suspect that wholly honest autobiographies are the exception rather than the rule.

I believe that The Autobiography of Malcolm X has been accused of some embellishment by its title subject.

More like off the chart.

I know what you are saying and I do agree with you—memories are subjective by nature and subject to change as well.

That said, I would bet that in my two examples, both Dylan and Burroughs completely made stuff up that never happened at all, rather than just simplifying or interpreting.

Of course, I may be totally mistaken, and both men are telling the actual, factual truth, at least as they recall it…

(if so I will be sure to give Bob a heartfelt apology the next time he calls) :wink:

Well, in the sports genre, Billy Martin’s autobiography, “#1,” contained several well-known old jokes and urban legends that Martin tried to pass off as true stories that had actually happened to him.

David Niven wrote two immensely entertaining books about Hollywood that are said to be highly embellished. Supposedly he used other people’s stories as his own.

There are doubts about the veracity of Augusten Burroughs’ autobiography, too.

And a few years ago the literary world was all agog over the memoirs of a boy truck-stop whore (wrote a book called “Sarah”?) - I can’t remember ‘his’ name, but it proved to be a big fat hoax, written by a woman.

Oh, those of us who grew up in the Seventies were often required to read “Go Ask Alice,” which was supposedly the autobiography of a teenage girl who was hooked on drugs.

Nope- the whole book was a fraud.

Running With Scissors?

I would love to know if anyone has ever tried to verify any of his claims in that book.

Of course, many of the most outrageous things that he asserts would be essentially a he said/she said situation, but that book REEKS of “never really happened” to me…

I still thought that it was a excellent read.

Also by the same ghost writer: Jay’s Journal, a nearly completely fictional account of a teen boy from Utah county and his involvement with the occult. This second novel disguised as a teenager’s diary set off a Satanic Panic that lasted until at least the mid 80’s in Utah county.

I never knew that Go Ask Alice was a fraud until 5 min. ago. (I read that book 25 years ago, and still remember certain passages of it today)

Jay’s Journal was the subject of church sermon I heard as a teen, but I read that it was all made up by a “concerned” Mormon youth leader a few years back.

I wonder if the concerned author donated his royalties to help counsel demonically possessed youth…

double post deleted

From Wikipedia’s entry on Beatrice Sparks:

And regarding Jay’s Journal:

It looks like she earns her living writing these morality play/cautionary tales for teenagers, disguised as teen diaries, but mostly fiction from her own imagination.

J.T. LeRoy. Actually a very well written book, and claimed to be “based on” a true story, with some embellishments - of course it was all bullshit, but it’s entertaining bullshit.

While he may have just settled to make a lawsuit go away, but Agusten Burroughs completely caved and admitted the fiction when the family in Running With Scissors called him on his crap.

BMax, Justin_Bailey-----Thank you both for the info about two books that I have read and wondered about…

BMax, just so I am clear, the same woman (B. Sparks) wrote both Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Journal, correct?