This book argues that literary deceptions and false memoirs have particular cultural value and significance. Sue Vice considers a wide range of 20th and 21st century literary deceptions. These include memoirs that were published as true accounts of such extreme experiences as surviving the Holocaust, life in a Los Angeles gang, and rehabilitation from drug addiction. Each of these memoirs turned out to be either wholly invented or substantially embellished. Equally, poetry by a survivor of Hiroshima, short stories by an Albanian writer, and novels by an American rent-boy and an Aboriginal woman, have been shown to have authors whose biographies are as fictive as their published works. The book explores both why such texts arise, including consideration of writers' motives as well as pressures from the publishing industry, readers' tastes and contemporary social issues, and also how such texts are constructed, concluding with an assessment of their literary merit. It analyses the background, literary construction and value of a wide range of recent false memoirs and literary deceptions.
It considers whether internal detail alone is sufficient to identify the truth-value or otherwise of a text, or if other evidence must be invoked. It explores the contradiction between contemporary literary critics' adherence to Roland Barthes' notion of the 'death of the author', and the apparently supreme importance of the role and biography of authors in the scandals that accompany revelations of deception.