The art of the disclaimer
Augusten Burroughs was in the literary headlines this summer when the author and his publisher, St. Martin’s, settled out of court with the foster family he wrote about in his bestselling memoir "Running with Scissors." One result was that changes were made to the Author’s Note and acknowledgements that are reminiscent of the debacle surrounding James Frey’s pseudomemoir "A Million Little Pieces" (a prescient title if there ever was one).
Now it seems that St. Martin’s has learned its lesson with the publication of Robert Leleux’s "The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy" (272 pp., $23.95). A note to readers is prominently displayed on the page preceding the table of contents. Here’s an excerpt:
"This is the story of my Texas life. And while (essentially) true to my experience, I must warn that it often reads better (as in funnier, or happier) than it was lived. This service I’ve performed not merely for the sake of your sensibilities, but also for my art. After all, how does the old song go? A hat’s not a hat till it’s tilted. Well, mea culpa, I have tilted hats throughout...."
Have you ever read a disclaimer that is chattier than this one? Leleux has taken the boilerplate language of a Legal Dept. and raised it to the level of prosy prologue. Who says legalese must be boring?