MIDWAY : Misery memoirs

Imagine that your parents didn’t beat you up, that you were only slightly bullied at school, that you only get pissed from time to time and that you haven’t got a fatal illness. How does that make you feel? Inadequate, I should think. Who is going to want to read your life story? Even the market for misery memoirs has its limits and no one is going to be interested in the heartfelt pain of being rather ordinary. But don’t let that hold you back. Because if you are really determined to spill your guts, you can. Here’s how.

Ignore uncomfortable facts. Last week, Margaret B Jones’s new book, Love and Consequences, an account of her life spent growing up as a mixed-race foster child on the killing fields of south-central LA, was hailed as an inspirational masterpiece by most of the US media. The bestseller lists beckoned. It now emerges that Jones is in fact Margaret Seltzer, a white, well-educated woman who comes from the anything but mean streets of a posh LA suburb. You could argue that Jones, or Seltzer as we should probably call her, was a bit half-witted and that she was bound to get caught out. But I would suggest that she was a bit unlucky. Not because she was exposed, but because she was exposed so quickly.

It was months before James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces — his drugs, booze and crime memoir — was exposed as A Million Little Lies and in that time he had managed to shift millions of copies, thanks largely to Oprah Winfrey, who chose it for her book club. Seltzer is now busy fire-fighting, claiming she had only ever intended to give a “voice to people who people don’t listen to”.

Remember, only nonentities succeed. If you are a celebrity hoping to kick-start a failing career with a book about your angst, then forget it. Last year Kerry Katona wrote hers and all that anyone remembers about her now is that she’s a bit of a loser. I certainly can’t remember why she was meant to be famous. And I definitely can’t be arsed to look it up.

Which leaves us with the nice paradox that the best misery memoirs are entirely unintentional. The British glamour model/ celebrity Jordan’s three volumes of autobiography are written as if she’s living the dream. To me, her life is a nightmare.