It took a while, but I got through the Jon Krakauer piece about the “Three Cups of Tea” guy, Greg Mortenson. I guess I feel the way I did after I read about Jack Kelley, the fabulist USA Today reporter of some years back, i.e., I wish I had been reading this stuff when everyone else was. Because I like to think I’d have spotted this.
Or maybe that’s just preening. My sole feat of unmasking writerly fraud came by accident. But some of the excerpts Krakauer quotes at length are simply beyond belief. Like the time Mortenson was “kidnapped by the Taliban” in Pakistan and held for eight days, forced to poop before an audience and given nothing more to amuse himself with than a 25-year-old copy of Time magazine. And just when he thinks this is it, here comes the bullet, oh goodbye cruel world…
Fortunately, as Mortenson was taking what he feared were his final breaths, the truck skidded to a stop, whereupon the commander removed Mortenson’s blindfold and gave him a hug. “We’re throwing a party,” the Talib announced. “A party before we take you back to Peshawar.” Instead of being executed by a Taliban firing squad, Mortenson was feted as the guest of honor at a rowdy Pashtun hoedown featuring barbecued goat, lots of hashish, and boisterous dancing. Throughout the bacchanal, dozens of Taliban embraced Mortenson like a long-lost brother and stuffed wads of hundred-rupee notes into his pockets. “For your schools!” the commander explained, shouting in Mortenson’s ear to be heard over bursts of celebratory gunfire. “So, Inshallah, you’ll build many more!”
Oh, yeah, the old hold-him-in-solitary-for-eight-days-then-throw-him-a-surprise-party trick. Those Pakistanis and their mind games.
I have to admit, I skimmed much of the last half of the journo-novella, although I paused to see how he’d weasel out of the inevitable confrontation. (Plead a sudden cardiac procedure.) In this case, I think LAMary had the right idea: Some people are just bad judges of literature, and that includes Oprah.
Kelley, you probably don’t recall, was also known for his incredibly vivid writing from the Middle East, which is full of people who melt away into the crowded cities after news happens, and can’t be called to verify just how many rupees were pressed into a man’s hand. (Besides, everyone smoked a LOT of hash.) One of Kelley’s many whoppers was about a suicide bombing in which heads rolled down the street, eyes still open and blinking, presumably a detail Kelley saw with his own. And it got past the copy desk? Wow.
Of course, the lies were one thing, and to many readers, unimportant. A good story is its own reward. The financial irregularities were quite another. But as I read on, already convinced of the shenanigans, I became more interested in the Byliner interface, which seems very much made for tablet-style reading. Guess I better order that iPad.
Just a brief bit of bloggage today, an OID like few others, from a Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office press release:
Today Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy has charged Cornell Lowman, 49 of Detroit with Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree and Habitual 4th Offender (upon conviction the sentence can be enhanced up to 15 year in prison because CSC 4 is a 2 year misdemeanor) It is alleged that on April 17, 2011 Lowman went to a nursing home in the 690 block of East Grand Boulevard to visit another person when he went into the room of a 65-year-old female coma patient and had sexual contact with her. He was observed by a witness who immediately contacted the police. The defendant was arrested at the scene.
Finally, it’s pretty obvious what else is new today. J.C. describes the new design as “a retrenchment…with a lot less garbage being loaded behind the scenes. We can add some more splash and dash, but I thought this was a nice grownup way to make a transition.
“It has some nice features…the window resizes nicely to hold the content and when you’re reading in single story mode, there’s an agglomeration…almost but not really a cloud…a PARADE of your commenters in the sidebar that are in fact links, so you can punch through the comment stream by poking the names…and as you’ll see, the sidebar on those pages kinda slides around to keep up with you.”
I know how fervently any sort of change around here is despised, so hey — let the hatred begin!