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Is Meredith Maran a Reliable Narrator?

December 5th, 2010

Meredith Maran has a new book called My Lie: A True Story of False Memory. The book tells the story of how Maran accused her father of sexual abuse and much later decided that her accusations were false. This story turns entirely on the author’s veracity.

So, is Meredith Maran a reliable narrator? Her recent interview with Douglas Mesner indicates that she is not. In that interview, which has since been promoted by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Maran is quoted as saying: “I spoke at length with both Pam and Peter Freyd, who are the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, and I also spoke at length with their daughter with whom they are estranged. So I would listen to Jennifer Freyd tell me her version of what had happened in her family, and I would listen to Pam and Peter — Pam, in most cases — tell me what she believed. And they were opposite.” (Here is a screenshot of that portion of the interview, posted on November 29.)

But Jennifer Freyd has not given an interview about these matters since the early 1990s. Indeed, Maran makes it clear in her book that Professor Freyd “told me that she no longer discusses her family of origin in public” (p. 205). Later, she reiterates that Professor Freyd “wouldn’t talk about her family, and I begged” (p. 231). Begged.

So why did Maran recently claim that she had “listen[ed] to Jennifer Freyd tell me her version of what had happened in her family”? More importantly, how can we trust anything in this “true story” given that the author cannot even tell a straight story about her own recent research for the book?

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