Three Cups of Disappointment

On my lofty, tottering pile of To Be Read books is a copy of Three Cups of Tea, loved by so many when it came out a few years ago and which called to me sweetly whenever I would run my fingers on the spines of the Towering Titles to pull out a new book to read.

I don’t know now that I will bother to pull it out. I love the idea that there are schools where girls are learning to read and write, and I am glad that my reading or not reading this book won’t change that. But I am quite disenchanted with the news of late that the author wasn’t telling us the truth about how he made those schools a reality. Call it fabrication, call it embellishment – at the end of the day, it’s still deception. And I don’t have the inclination or the time to peek past the facade to see what is true about this book and what is not.

If you’re not in the know, it has been discovered that author Greg Mortenson told his story with his fingers crossed. 60 Minutes revealed the subtle ruse not too many days ago. Mortenson told his story of building schools in Afghanistan as an invitation to view his life in rewind. This is what a memoir should be, right? Here is my life as it happened, and here is how it changed me. A memoir is the retelling of the events that gave us our memories not a repackaging of the events to manufacture memories we wish we had.

That would be fiction. Nice stuff, fiction. I love it, of course. But everyone knows my books are the stuff of my imagination. I didn’t write them with my fingers crossed.

As I have said before, life is short and there are too many books. I don’t know that I will carve out the time to read Mortenson’s book now. ┬áBut I do hope all this chatter over his deceptive cups of tea won’t spoil the notion that there are Afghan girls in school as I write this, learning to read. . .

Thoughts, anyone?

Author: Susan

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Clair on April 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I hadn't heard about all that. Truth is important and it is always disappointing when you find people aren't truthful. As an aside, it wasn't completely brilliant storytelling, though it made me pause and think when I did read it.

  2. Lisa McKay on April 26, 2011 at 12:46 am

    I was underwhelmed by it as a memoir in a literary sense – it was co-written in the third person and it strayed too far into the hero worship territory for my liking, but Mortenson did come across (as I'm sure he is, even with his embellishments) as an inspiring figure. If you're interested on this controversy my blogger friend Marianne has written a great post on it: http://marianne-elliott.com/2011/04/three-cups-of-humble-pie

  3. Cherry on April 26, 2011 at 1:10 am

    Perhaps the co-writer took a bit of liberty?
    I have read the book and was inspired and enjoyed about the first half. Then, it seemed, the narrative took a turn toward glorifying the lead character. About the same time, Mortensen began to remind me of some other passive folks I have known – big on compassion and also given to excuse or just not coming through and others having to take care of them. So, I laid the book aside. I am grieved to hear that such inspiration and such a lofty idea and ideal has severe cracks.

  4. Susan Meissner on April 26, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Thanks for all your insights, Clair, Cherry and Lisa. And Lis, thanks for the link. I will check it out. . .

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