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Web Letter

I appreciate this article for its overview of recent books that have, through their writers' variously complex deceits, accomplished success that was later re-estimated in light of relevant untruths. What I find most interesting about these examples is not the ways they have challenged the integrity of writing classifications that define truth and fiction but the way most of Lehmann's examples reveal the propensity among educated Americans to readily consume what should stand out as elaborately described stereotypes. The authors' ploys for publishing these works are not nearly as disconcerting as the willingness many readers show for accepting these artful renderings of violent and oppressive life experiences, without suspicion that would send one searching for the author's airbrush.

While it may less of a burden to American identity to imagine that an individual can live amid continual violence and trauma and develop into a wonderfully harmonious balance of self-possession, confidence and heroic determination--a lovely, well-balanced victim/hero--that is rarely the real outcome of such living conditions. It should take little more than modest criticality to enable the willingness to reject billboard versions of life experiences that pop up undercover as non-fiction. Even when the truer versions are uglier, they do not lack the longed-for themes of heroism and victimization, they just pack more humanity between the lines.

B. Eliza Wiest

Chicago, IL

Mar 27 2008 - 1:01am

Web Letter

Some clarification for those who don't understand the reference to Seltzer's "seemingly random interpolation of k's for c's" and "K-centric alphabet abuse": as mentioned in the article, Bloods and Crips are enemy gangs. Their respective members take that hatred so far that, in written form, Bloods won't use the letter C and Crips won't use the letter B. Thus, the substitution of Ks for Cs.

There are a few exceptions, though. A Blood will use the letter C when it's followed by the letter K... because "CK" stands for Crip Killer. And a Crip won't use that CK combo because, well, it's disrespectful to their own gang. In those cases, Crips use two Cs (sick becomes sicc, for example).

Further, a Crip will use the letter B only when subbing it out with the letter C doesn't work well. In those cases, you'll see the letter B used, but with an X marked over it.

Rob Siders

Denver, CO

Mar 26 2008 - 12:06pm

Web Letter

A very good article, with one glaring exception--JT Leroy published fiction, acknowledged as such from the start. You can make an arguement about the marketing of the author's back story and subsequent misdirection of promotion of the work, but it was fiction. I read it not for it's "truth value" as a matter of reportage but for the same truth that emerges from any good work of fiction. I didn't find much of that, frankly, but that's a different issue. I keep seeing JT Leroy mentioned in stories about these fake memoirs, and it strikes me a a fundamental categorical error that does no service to the story being reported.

Tim Costigan

San Francisco, CA

Mar 25 2008 - 8:05pm