Author and activist Greg Mortenson is in the headlines for his writing, but not for the right reasons.
Mortenson is defending his 2006 book "Three Cups of Tea" amid allegations that key stories in it are false, including his supposed 1996 kidnapping near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The debate over whether Mortenson's tale is truth or fiction brings to mind some literary hoaxes that took the publishing and media industries by storm:
- Remember James Frey? His work "A Million Little Pieces" was originally promoted as a memoir about dealing with substance abuse and recovery. Oprah Winfrey gave the book her personal endorsement, and it became one of the best-selling books of 2005.But Frey admitted in 2006 that he made up some of the events about himself and others in the book, prompting Winfrey to accuse Frey of "conning" her during a nationally-televised tongue-lashing of the author and his publisher. The book was later re-published with an author's note admitting that parts of the book had been changed.
- Kaavya Viswanathan was a Harvard undergrad who nabbed a reported six-figure book deal thanks to her 2006 young adult debut novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life." But the book was quickly pulled from shelves after it was revealed that portions of the novel appeared to have been plagiarized from works by Megan McCafferty and other authors.
- Margaret Seltzer raised the issue of untruthful memoirs once again when she wrote the book "Love and Consequences" under the pseudonym Margaret B. Jones in 2008. Seltzer claimed she was raised in a black foster home in South Central L.A. and eventually became involved in gangs.But after the New York Times ran a piece about her book, one of Seltzer's sisters called her publisher to contest the memoir's validity, and Seltzer herself later admitted that she'd made it all up.
- Howard Hughes was a billionaire businessman who became a recluse in his later years, completely withdrawing from public life. But that didn't stop Clifford Irving from claiming he helped Hughes write his autobiography in the early 1970s.The book was set to be published in 1972 when Irving confessed that the book was a hoax. Just weeks before Irving's admission, Hughes made his first public statement in 14 years, claiming he never spoke to the author, let alone heard of him.