Monday, December 29, 2008
You've probably heard by now of the scandal surrounding this book, Angel at the Fence, by Herman Rosenblat. The book was set to be published in February, is being made into a film, and had been touted by The Oprah. It seems that Mr. Rosenblat fabricated parts of his memoir; there was no boy at any fence and no young girl tossing him apples. As it turns out, the book will not be published.
This reminds me of the James Frey scandal a few years ago; The Oprah endorsed Mr. Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, and was then humiliated when it came out that he had embellished parts of his story.
In both cases, it seems, the essential story was true. Part of the fault lies in the books being published as "memoir" rather than fiction. I've not read Angel a the Fence, but I did read Mr. Frey's book. I read his book AFTER the deception was revealed, so I was not one of those souls that felt "lied to" or "deceived" by Mr. Frey. I just found it to be a riveting good read. He has a bizarre writing style, to be sure, but it was such a good story; so much so that I went out and bought My Friend Leonard, the sequel, and cried through that one. I think even after it was revealed that he had fabricated parts of A Million Little Pieces, lots of folks that hadn't read it (like me) went out and bought it just to see what all the fuss was about.
I suspect Angel at the Fence is also a really great read and I hope that the publisher can find a way to actually get the book out. Who is at fault here? Yes, Mr. Rosenblat was not totally forthcoming. I'm not excusing his actions of deception; but, didn't the publsihing house have an obligation to do some fact-checking? Especially after the Frey scandal? (It wasn't the same publisher.) The genre of memoir was under such scrutiny after that. Should we move Mr. Frey's book to fiction or leave it in non-fiction? Hmmmmm. It's essentially lying to call it non-fiction.
Anyway, Mr. Rosenblat's intentions were good. In a statement released by Rosenblat, he said, "I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people," he wrote in the statement. "I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world."
The Holocaust has provided fodder for many decepetive memoirs (Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years comes to mind), and that's a shame. As one who has heard true stories of survival from real Holocaust survivors (Rose and Louis Van Thyn for example) I know there are true, heart-warming stories there than can convey the same message Mr. Rosenblat was trying to say: Don't hate anyone.
I remember when Rose Van Thyn was asked if she forgave the Nazis, she said that it wasn't up to her to forgive, it was up to God.
At any rate, there is enough truth in Mr. Rosenblat's story that I hope it is still published, although probably under the fiction label!