Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Cups of Tea controversy

Perhaps by now, you've seen the news and maybe the 60 minutes report on the genuineness of Greg Mortenson's book, Three Cups of Tea. Jon Krakauer, author of, Into The Wild, Where Men Win Glory and Into Thin Air has also weighed in, disputing some of the events that Mortenson claims are true.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I've not read Three Cups of Tea but reading the book wouldn't necessarily give me the right to question Mortenson. I'm not one to question the truthfulness of his book here in this blog, but am one to debate the topic.

Remember James Frey who after intense pressure and scrutiny revealed his book, A Million Little Pieces was fabrication and truth-stretching. Duped is what Oprah called it. She was a supporter then a detractor. She was a catalyst for the success of Frey's book after including it in her book club.

Who does have the right to question an authors works.  Given it's published and released under the heading, Non-Fiction, one could argue that if the events, characters, etc. weren't true, then a fraud may have been perpetrated.   It's my understanding that Mortenson's publisher is now doing a thorough investigation.  Shouldn't they have before publishing it?  Which begs the question, how believable is a non-fiction book if you yourself weren't there to experience it?  When or did a line get crossed between non-fiction or truth and capitalism?  Okay, it's a little believable here and there so lets publish it anyway? In the case of Mortenson, perhaps the mismanagement of his organization for which he received many donations, including  ones from Krakauer and President Obama is the motivational factor for the investigation.

Acclaimed historians repeatedly footnote and document their research and provide those notes within the book. It all comes down to credibility and integrity. The reading public does take a leap of faith and believe what is written until proven otherwise.  Take the internet for example. Do you believe everything you read on the web? Has the web or isolated incidents such as Mortenson's or Frey's bring into question our faith in the printed page. For the sake of a good story, are we okay with a little embellishment?

Take Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame, a topic that's a passion of mine.  Before publishing an article in the Washington Post, they were driven to have at least two sources to confirm the allegations. Should or do publishers check the work of authors before publishing?   Shouldn't the publisher of the book hold some moral responsibility? Perhaps as I mentioned, the Three Cups of Tea incident is just that, an incident that occurs from time to time. Based on the vast amount of publishing today, it's bound to happen and in a world of 25 hour/8 days a week news, we hear more about it today then say, 10 years ago.

Here's my final question(s): For those who have read the book, would you have read it if you knew it was fiction?  If you haven't read it, will you still read it after hearing of the controversy?

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