By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
To the best of my recollection, among the other guests were a toupeed dumbass who called the police to retrieve his keys from an open convertible, then drove to Vegas and married his twin, plus a sheepish high school jock who scored the winning touchdown in his championship game — for the other side. (I may be dreaming the guest list — I left my memory in a bus station locker with my liver a decade ago, and lost the key.)
Instead of a life-changing book-club endorsement, my thrill was a private moment with the greatest talk-show human on the planet. During a commercial break, Ms. Winfrey leaned close enough for me to find out she smelled minty, then whispered, “I smoked crack and I loved it!” before the camera swung back in our faces.
I never got near any kind of mega-sales. But if I close my eyes, I can still see the look in Oprah’s eyes. And, in the nonstop, massively non-selling memoir written on the wall of my skull, she still smells minty.
But enough about me. It’s no picnic working a white privileged existence into a world of pain. On some level all writers want to control what their readers think of them. Self-invention is part of the gig. Though some authors you picture practicing scowls in the mirror as they type, some you don’t. Either way, the whole endeavor can morph into something closer to strategy than story. A kind of literature as self-promotion that’s pervaded the American pantheon as far back as Whitman — and to the Father of Our Country before that.
Oscar Wilde, no stranger to memoir — though he actually did hard time while writing his heartbreaking De Profundis— decried American art because of its tedious obsession with veracity. A tendency he traced to George Washington, with his stirring tale of chopping down a cherry tree, then declaring he couldn’t lie about it. The anecdote, Wilde noted, perfectly exemplifies the American psyche: all about honesty, and completely contrived.
Now, as then, we are a people grown fat on fabrication. The truth is just another artificial flavor, with JT and James just the latest in a long line of celebrity chefs.
Let’s everybody chow down!?
Jerry Stahl is the author of the narco memoirPermanent Midnight?. His latest novel,I, Fatty, was anL.A. Timesbest-seller.
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