Biography, Autobiography, Memoir discussion

11 views
Can We Believe What We Read?

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Fishface (last edited Aug 19, 2018 10:29AM) (new)

Fishface | 1747 comments I was just listening to Freakanomics Radio and they were talking about management of public image, especiakly postmortem. One story they told was about how Ty Cobb's authorized biographer wrote a 2nd book about Cobb after his death, the ABSOLUTELY TRUE TELL-ALL, about Cobb using a bullwhip on his son and getting drunk and going postal on his family in other ways, not to mention stealing the postage stamps off fan mail children sent him because he was a cheapskate, and of course the author raked in the money when it hit the stands.

And it turned out that nothing in the 2nd book was true. In fact, the author was caught faking Ty Cobb autographs and making even more money off a dead baseball hero.

And the many TC readers here can all list the books they've read, convincing ones, that absolutely prove who killed thw Black Dahlia or Mary Jane Kelly...until someone else disproves it conpletely and replaces it with another, equally plausible-sounding version of events.

How can we ever really know what's definitely true?


message 2: by Julie (new)

Julie (julielill) | 1404 comments We probably will never know what is really true and probably have to accept that sometimes we have to rely on publishers to monitor content.


Diane in Australia | 338 comments No one ever really knows the truth, except the folks directly involved (the victim, the murderer, etc.). It's like lots of other things in life (religion, politics, etc.), we have to sort through the info, apply our own intellect, and accept that our conclusion (and those of others) may be wrong.


message 4: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 3119 comments Mod
That's a tough one. It seems like it happens more and more often when I read a memoir I wonder if I can believe what I read.


message 5: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments A liar who wrote a memoir that comes to mind is cyclist Lance Armstrong...people do make up stories and pass them off as true. Unfortunately, narcissists arent barred from writing their own stories.


message 6: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 3119 comments Mod
Selina wrote: "A liar who wrote a memoir that comes to mind is cyclist Lance Armstrong...people do make up stories and pass them off as true. Unfortunately, narcissists arent barred from writing their own stories."


A memoir is probably true in the mind of the person telling it and I'm sure there are always people in their life that saw things differently. I believe a biography is probably more objective.


message 7: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1747 comments I just started Michael Newton's bio of Gerard Schaefer, Hangman: Life and Crimes of Serial Killer & Police Officer Gerard Schaefer, and I was amused to see in the introduction that after Newton write a single sentence about the guy in another book, the subject was all over him threatening legal action because Newton was delaying his parole with his slanderous lies. The court slapped the serial killer down quite firmly -- for one thing, his first parole hearing wasn't going to come up for something like 20 years -- and as soon as Newton heard Schaefer had died he went to work on a book about him, saying that he prefers to just let the court record speak for itself.

But there's always a tendril of doubt that springs up at a time like that, especially since his case was cleared long before anything really super-convincing, like DNA, was in use.

But then I think of the day Schaefer went to his boss at the precinct house, confessing that he'd done something very foolish, and led fellow officers to where he'd tied two terrified girls to a tree. Exactly the way he went on to kill more than a few others.


message 8: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 3 comments We don't. But that is part of what makes it inteesting


message 9: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 3119 comments Mod
It kind of spoils a book for me when it is billed as a true story but at the beginning there will be a disclaimer that the dialogue may not be exactly as it happened.


message 10: by Selina (last edited Aug 29, 2018 11:10AM) (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments Tricky but I think if someone writes a memoir that is close to the person I would just take it as their memories, they are just one person so have one perspective.
Maybe you have to read at least four different eyewitness accounts to gain perspective.

I dont read much TC but have been reading a lot about Jackie Kennedy lately memoirs by people who worked with her and even lived with her. Any public figure might have gossip written about them but also bear in mind some public figures like to manufacture their own reality as well. Also What they present to the public may be very different from what they are like in private. For example many people wont appear drunk or stoned in public but they could be smoking cigarettes outside of work and getting high when they are not on show.

Actors are very good at presenting themselves as other people. Its tv it doesnt show people going to the toilet. It doesnt show them sleeping only pretending to sleep. Its not reality. When people wear makeup its just that...a mask. Nobodys lips are really that red.


message 11: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1747 comments Stephen King said that making a movie about something automatically fictionalizes it, so that an opening title card reading "THIS IS A TRUE STORY" is always an untrue statement. Writing may make it even more fictional, honestly, because of all the thought that goes into every single word -- not just to make it accurate, but also to find ways to keep it interesting. I believe that reality and entertainment are natural enemies and even if every word is a book about something real is true and accurate, there are always enormous slices of the story missing. And as Koren says, it's "true in the mind of the person telling it." Someone else's truth may be very different.


message 12: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 3119 comments Mod
Fishface wrote: "Stephen King said that making a movie about something automatically fictionalizes it, so that an opening title card reading "THIS IS A TRUE STORY" is always an untrue statement. Writing may make it..."

When I wrote that I had recently read a True Crime book (I think it was the M. William Phelps book about Keith Jesperson) where he said towards the end of the book that certain family members did not remember some things the same way the killer did. In that case, I think that in the subject's own mind that is probably the way he remembered it and the other person saw it differently.


message 13: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments I dont know most movie titles will say 'based on a true story'. Operative word being 'based'. Its hard to condense the essence of a life story into 1 or 2 hours film. You have to leave some parts out. People can't sit for that long!

Which is why I like books esp memoirs as it gives you a lot more detail than a film would, mostly.


message 14: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 3119 comments Mod
Selina wrote: "I dont know most movie titles will say 'based on a true story'. Operative word being 'based'. Its hard to condense the essence of a life story into 1 or 2 hours film. You have to leave some parts o..."

I also prefer the book. You cant see what someone is thinking in a movie.


message 15: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments Has any of you TC readers been on a jury?
I was called up once for jury service but didnt get picked. My name was called out but they just saw me and decided no.
Apprently the case at the time was a really horrible one, it was a homicide at the RSA. The guy was found guilty.


message 16: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments I mean all crimes are horrible, but that one was particularly violent, shocking and senseless.


message 17: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 3119 comments Mod
Selina wrote: "Has any of you TC readers been on a jury?
I was called up once for jury service but didnt get picked. My name was called out but they just saw me and decided no.
Apprently the case at the time wa..."


I was on jury duty once. I got called for a Driving While Intoxicated case but they settled out of court right before we were suppose to go in. The judge said there is something about seeing the jury all lined up and ready to go that makes them change their minds about a jury trial. LOL! But the judge was nice enough to talk to us for a little while and tell us what it all entails. That was the only time I got called.

Last year I was on Grand Jury duty for the whole year but I never got called. I'm told Grand Jury duty is a bit different. The lawyers dont pick who they want. It is only to say if you think there is enough evidence to press charges and usually doesn't last more than a few hours or a day.

Kind of ironic that so many people dont want to be on a jury, but here I am, one that would really like to serve and I dont get called.


message 18: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments At least their are trials, some countries like China dont have a robust justice system.

Was thinking why there are four different gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is because of this which is histories most famous execution of an innocent person for 'crimes' he obviously did not commit. The charges were trumped up and false witnesses came forth. Also the reason why we have 12 on a jury is related to this most famous trial, plus when they say to say nothing but the truth, people will swear on the Bible. I dont know if people do this in other countries that dont regard the Bible as holy.

Can we ever know what is truth? This is the question Pilate asked. What is truth? Do you know the truth...it will set you free if you know the truth.


message 19: by Fishface (last edited Oct 07, 2018 07:50PM) (new)

Fishface | 1747 comments And none of the Gospels were written by anyone who knew Christ, and all of them were written some time after he died. What in a court of law would be called inadmissible "hearsay evidence." Which is correct? Are any of them correct?

There is a GR member who's a judge in South Africa and she comments now and then about how she would dread being put in front of an American jury -- apparently they don't use juries there? -- because jurors know nothing about anything and only a judge can decide properly. She has also made statements to the effect that American judges are lowlife politicians, not lofty specimens like the ones in S.A. who are appointed on the basis of being brilliant jurists and pretty darn near saintly in their private lives. There are no politics involved in appointing a judge where she lives, she says.

A) I think she is being really naive about how judges get appointed -- it's interpersonal politics in South Africa instead of campaign politics, that's the only difference.

B) I would much rather be tried by a jury from Anytown, USA because if the judge is prejudiced, or hung over, or burned out on the job of judging, or has a beef with one of the attorneys or police on the case, my goose could be cooked because there would be nobody for the judge to bounce ideas off of -- nor would there be anybody to confront the judge if he or she is being idiotic. A law degree does NOT make a person infallible.

I cling to the hope that the more eyes there are on my case, and the more people to think it over together, the more likely the truth is to come out.


message 20: by Fishface (new)

Fishface | 1747 comments Selina wrote: "Has any of you TC readers been on a jury?
I was called up once for jury service but didnt get picked. My name was called out but they just saw me and decided no.
Apprently the case at the time wa..."


I was on a jury once for a non-criminal case. A woman was trying to sue General Motors because she was in a collision and got a burn on her neck from her seatbelt.


message 21: by Selina (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments Fishface wrote: "And none of the Gospels were written by anyone who knew Christ, and all of them were written some time after he died. What in a court of law would be called inadmissible "hearsay evidence." Which i..."

Actually they were written by people who knew Jesus, Luke was Mary's physician, Matthew was a tax collector, John was one of the disciples, Mark was Peter's friend.

They were eyewitness accounts they just got collected after Jesus was resurrected. Of course! Duh.


message 22: by Selina (last edited Oct 07, 2018 08:59PM) (new)

Selina (literatelibrarian) | 2636 comments There's also the shroud of turin , although people try to say its fake. Plus an empty tomb. And people being persecuted and matyred beause they are simply telling what they heard, but other people just didnt believe.
But yea, hard to know if you haven't had a revelation. If you werent there at the time, you obviously hadnt seen with your own eyes. Thats why the gospels were written down.
Even Thomas doubted and he was like there. But I dont think that many people (over 500 witnesses) would make it all up.


message 23: by Fishface (last edited Nov 01, 2018 05:52PM) (new)

Fishface | 1747 comments Now reading The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South. This one is a GREAT example of having to doubt what you read. The whole point of the book for the author is to try to sort through everyone's wildly different, but all absolutely true theories.


back to top