You'd think that James Frey would feel like he was off the hook ever since it was revealed that Margaret Seltzer made up her memoir about growing up a foster child in the hood. But, alas, poor Frey, he's getting fried all over again, as most news outlets writing about the scandale du jour have name-dropped him, if not run unflattering photos of his unhappy, Oprah-shamed mug. Turns out, people are still very, very angry about that whole thing. But Margaret Seltzer and those around her are absorbing plenty of anger and blame, since girlfriend couldn't even claim that only 420 of 432 of her pages contained falsehoods, as Frey did. (Pretty much all of it was fake, including, probably, the foundation Gawker found that was started by Seltzer to "elevate the community.") "In the post–James Frey world, we all are more careful," Riverhead editor Sarah McGrath, who has been the focus of much of the ire, told the Times. Although apparently not careful enough! "Despite editing the book in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding James Frey…Ms. McGrath said she did not independently check parts of Ms. Seltzer’s story or perform any kind of background check. She said she relied on Ms. Seltzer to tell the truth." She should have known: As Seltzer herself told her: "Trust no one."
The Times learned an important lesson this week: Never trust a smart girl with acrylic fingernails. Love and Consequences, the acclaimed memoir of Margaret B. Jones, a half-white, half–Native American former foster child who grew up in South Central L.A., was the subject of two Times features and seemed poised to hit the best-seller list when released by Penguin this week — until it turned out that Margaret Jones was actually Margaret Seltzer, a white, private-school educated 33-year-old whose story was as fake as said fingernails. In retrospect, it seems almost laughable that anyone believed Seltzer's stories in the first place — they have whiff of cliché and were maybe even suspiciously detailed: As the Times noted in a feature last month, the author had a "novelist’s eye for the psychological detail and an anthropologist’s eye for social rituals and routines." Indeed!
“The reason I wanted to write the book is that all the time, people would say to me, you’re not what I imagine someone from South L.A. would be like,” she said, curled up on her living room sofa, which was jacketed in a brown elasticized cover from Target. Her feet rested on a chunky coffee table from World Market. The house smelled of black-eyed peas, which were stewing with pork neck bones — a dish from the repertory of her foster mother, known as “Big Mom,” whose shoebox of recipes she inherited.
"Big Mom" and her shoebox of recipes? Yeah, we smell something, and it ain't pork stew.