Greg Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea” has recently come under fire for distorting facts. The supposed memoir is about Mortenson’s journey through Afghanistan, from near death, being nursed back to life by villagers, his alleged kidnapping by the Taliban, and his promise and return to the country to build the children schools. Now, Mortenson has said some of the situations from the book are exaggerated.
This is yet another work, written by an American, who decides to go to a war-torn country, live a philanthropic life, and write a memoir wherein the author himself becomes a hero. Books of this nature should begin to raise some eyebrows in the publishing industry. Of course, publishers can’t fact-check every last detail. But publishers must perform due-diligence for their products.
Mostly, readers should stop giving credence to people who go too far to mythologize themselves.
I call this “The Twitter Syndrome.”
This occurs when people use their little platforms to seem bigger than they actually are. This means Twitter and other social media outfits have co-created millions of miniature celebrities. People who Tweet that they are at a certain restaurant or downtown with the crew or just hanging watching reality television. Instant feedback is a powerful drug for people trying to mythologize themselves. They want to feel people are hanging on their every word. They want to be rock stars.
When you cross the eschalon into book publishing, there is a greater need for responsibility and accuracy. Books are sacred. You’re not just Tweeting spur-of-the-moment thoughts. You’re creating a piece that will likely live forever.
There has always been a fine line between fiction and nonfiction. The e-book revolution will only make publishing cheaper, faster, and more prevalent. Books will no longer have printing costs. They can be sent through the internet. Every conceivable person who can write 100,000 words will be an author. This means anybody. Why not?
The attraction will likely only grow for electronic memoirists to create grandiose stories.
The Twitter Syndrome is very bad when it spills over into the publishing world. We all need to mythologize ourselves. If we don’t do it, no one else will. But words have power. Scenes have power. They are a singular choice. In publishing, you only have one chance to get it correct.
Read and write wisely.