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Bookmarks: Ishmael Beah’s “poetic licence,” sci-fi’s exhaustion, and the Bard goes manga

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  • Dan Chaon

    Dear Quill and Quire,

    I am writing to every website and blog that chose to link to the article in The Australian about Ishmael Beah.

    I was misquoted. I stand by Ishmael Beah’s book. When he was writing this book, he didn’t have any sense that it would become a bestseller, so what would be the point in inventing facts? And if he was lying, why would he be so stupid as to mix up major dates? That doesn’t make sense.
    I have to admit that the reporter I talked to was very crafty.

    For example:

    REPORTER: What do you make of the revelations of factual flaws in Ishmael Beah’s story?

    ME: Ummm. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily be concerned about it until after I hear what Ishmael has to say.

    RESULTANT QUOTE: “If it turns out there are factual errors, I wouldn’t necessarily be all that concerned about it,” said Professor Chaon of Ohio’s Oberlin College.

    REPORTER: So you feel that there was a degree of poetic licence in the writing of this memoir?

    ME: Well, I wouldn’t use the term “poetic licence.” But there is a difference between a piece of reportage and a memoir. The reporter is aware of himself as an observer, and is always ‘writing’ in his head as events occur; the memoirist is relying on memory. I don’t think this book is being presented as a piece of journalism. Ishmael wasn’t taking notes as he was running for his life. The book is a memoir.


    ARG! You can see how foolish and sloppy I was in responding to the questions, and I’m very embarrassed that this stuff is now making the rounds in the blogs.

    I’m keeping my mouth shut from now on. Ishmael is a smart guy and he can speak for himself.

  • Amahl

    Beah wrote the book with help from professionals in the publishing industry. His so called adoptive mother (ugh) is a writer of fantasy. Beah is a complete charlatan who I believe is in this for the money, and his rather suspicious defense gives proof to this. For my part, I find him one of the most unpalatable fingure I have ever come across in the public arena. Hope he is gone soon. Sorry if you dont agree.

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