News of the latest case of a fabricating memoirist sent me to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
I wanted to see if Margaret Seltzer, a k a Margaret B. Jones, the 33-year-old author of Love and Consequences, fits the description of someone with “anti-social personality disorder,” more commonly known as a sociopath.
Not being a mental health professional, and never having met Margaret Seltzer, I am hardly qualified to say that the young lady is a sociopath.
And far be it from me–especially in this integrity-challenged era of insta-pundits, citizen journalists, and reality show mavens turned lifestyle experts–to say that the editors at Riverhead Books are the innocent victims of a glib, manipulative, remorseless, lying sociopath in the body of Margaret Seltzer.
Yet it is worth considering some of that DSM description of anti-social, or sociopathic behavior, in the context of this situation. Key traits of such individuals include:
• Glibness and superficial charm.
• Manipulative and conning.
• Grandiose sense of self.
Feels entitled to certain things as their right.
• Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility.
Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution;
changes life story readily.
Certainly, that final characteristic–“changes life story readily”–appears to apply to Seltzer/Jones, a young woman who managed to fool a lot of smart, important people: her book editor, Sarah McGrath at Riverhead, publisher of Love and Consequences; her agent; a former writing teacher; the publicity folks at Riverhead; and some big-league journalists.
The memoir–a hard-luck story of growing up in a “gang family” in South Central Los Angeles–received a wet-kiss review February 26 from New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani, and from other book critics as well. Seltzer/Jones sold the “memoir” as a thrill-a-minute story of shooting, drug dealing, and gang-bangin’ as lived by a half-white, half-Native American girl who was abandoned shortly after birth and taken in at age 8-and-a-half by a generous black South Central woman known as “Big Mom.”