Now everyone’s all, “OMG, the profile of Margaret Jones in the Times was way obviously fake, it was like a stage set, and besides no former gang member would have a cheesy ‘Writer at Work’ sign above their office door,” and tripping over themselves to claim that they just knew something was fishy.
Whatever, I say to that.
But what I am, actually, curious about is why most people were so quick to not only accept Margaret Jones/Seltzer and her story, but also praise her effusively. (Present company included.) I can’t help but think that it has something to do with white intellectual-bourgeois America being fundamentally uncomfortable with, or maybe just not understanding of, the black experience in this country, and so we need it mediated through white people. (See also: The Wire.) We—the New York publishing industry, the media, my blog—wanted to believe Margaret Jones because she was a white girl who had lived with black people. Like a spy! And so she came back and reported to us what life there was really like.
I mean, I don’t see Sarah McGrath or Michiko Kakutani or me or you buying the books they sell at the Fulton Mall or 125th Street, which are arguably more “real” than anything Margaret Jones/Seltzer wrote or anything David Simon puts on HBO, which is funny because we’re supposedly so obsessed with “reality” and “authenticity.” Sure, we can argue, “Well, they’re not well-written.” But are they? Maybe they are to Riverhead or the New York Times, or my bookshelf.
I dunno. I’m not saying I’m not as hypocritical as everyone else, mind you. It’s just something that crossed my mind as I walked to the subway listening to Death Cab for Cutie.
(Sort of related: I can’t help but think that if Margaret Jones had tried to sell this to the New Yorker they would have figured out it was a hoax in a second. It still boggles the mind that publishers are so obstinately opposed to fact-checking.)