Batting clean-up on Margaret Seltzer

As the writer Ellen Gilchrist once said, the truth has a biological urge to come out. In the case of Margaret Seltzer and her fake memoir, "Love and Consequences," she has been excoriated by a cast of thousands for making up an identity, an elaborate story that goes with it, selling it, and reaping the benefits. I'm not writing this to say that she did otherwise, but to suggest that something else is afoot here, something way beyond hoodwinking the publishing industry.

It all has to do with the fact the her sister blew the whistle. Clearly it could have been any number of people at some point - old classmates, teachers, enemies and so on. But because it was her sister who called the publisher, I would say that a Seltzer family disaster - perhaps the Seltzer family disaster - has now been stopped. Why her sister called we do not know, other than she was preventing a lie from continuing. But perhaps she was weary of living with a lifetime of lies. Perhaps she or other family members had tried to stop Margaret before. Perhaps she resented Margaret and when the opportunity presented itself on such a large scale, she was compelled to react. Perhaps Margaret had been trying desperately to please her parents, and prevaricating was the only thing that worked. Perhaps Margaret comes from a family of compulsive liars, except for the sister.

My instinct is that what has occurred is a sister's "intervention," to use the tired rehab term, whether or not she realized that was what she was doing when she picked up the phone and dialed the NY version of Fleet Street.* The result is a scandal playing out on the national stage, focusing attention on the publishing industry's mania for memoirs. There's really no way to prevent false memoirs from being published (yes, fact-checking might have headed this one off at the pass, but there will be others and there have been others, some of which have been penned by well-known writers, and rank as classic literary works, in other eras, having been praised for their artistry). But peel off the layers of the current deception and you are left with a harsh truth that has been forced out and a family looking at itself in the mirror.

Sounds like an epic novel to me. But of course, as the saying goes, you can't make this stuff up. And you wouldn't get a decent book deal if you did. But clearly there is fuel for the sister's own memoir, "How I Saved My Family by Outing My Sister as a Literary Fraud." Now whether or not this is ever written down or published is beside the point, for in truth there is healing and with this new twist in the Seltzer family saga, they may be on their way.

*A reader has contacted me and pointed out that my Fleet Street reference is inaccurate, since Seltzer's sister phoned Riverhead, the publishing company, and not newspapers. She's right, but I was using the reference loosely, to imply that the publishing world has tabloid-like tendencies. Apologies for any confusion.


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