Memoir, or fiction?

Today The Smoking Gun calls James Frey a fraud. In 2003, Chris Lehmann pinpointed a fatal sentimentality and lack of self-awareness that reduces A Million Little Pieces to a Victorian melodrama featuring a “macho badass with a heart of gold.” Frey (who wears a tattoo that reads “FTBSITTTD,” an acronym for “Fuck the Bullshit, It’s Time To Throw Down”) has called Dave Eggers’ memoir “mediocre” and announced his intentions “to write the best book of my generation.”

Over the weekend Warren St. John unmasked J.T. Leroy’s public persona. Her name is Savannah Knoop. And The Scotsman spoke with Augusten Burroughs about the veracity of Running with Scissors, his bestselling memoir that’s now at the center of a libel suit:

What makes Burroughs’ case all the stronger is that he spent most of his youth running around with a tape recorder and a notepad, essentially documenting his life as it happened.

“In the Running With Scissors years, living with my mother’s psychiatrist, it was so profoundly isolating and uncomfortable that I had to write,” Burroughs says. “I absolutely had to write. A notebook was like a prop. I also had to talk to somebody about it — and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. So those journals are filled with anxious writing, a lot of circular writing — a lot of worry. But I got into the habit of it.”

Burroughs says he will never publish these journals, but that they connect him to the past in a vital way. Still, one of the biggest validations of his life — and more importantly, what he has written of it — comes from the response of readers to his story. “Running with Scissors is a crazy story about a very uncommon life,” Burroughs says, “but I’ve met a lot of people who led a similar life, who as a result of the book have come forward. It’s not as atypical as many people think.”


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.