Bernie Madoff’s family is on a full-court-press tour for the book “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family.” Written by author Laurie Sandell with assistance from Madoff’s wife Ruth and their son Andrew, the book details the rise and fall of Bernie Madoff, jailed for a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
Although the book is an attempt to separate the son and wife from the sins of the father, it is also seen by some as a way to drum up some income. It’s become a ritual in the American story cycle, first perfected on Oprah’s couch and now reaching a crescendo of marketing blitzes on morning news shows, daytime talk shows and evening documentaries. The tell-all book has become a veritable cash cow for the publishing industry.
This book is not even the only Madoff memoir on sale this month. Stephanie Madoff Mack, the widow of the eldest Madoff son, who committed suicide on his father’s second anniversary of incarceration, wrote “The End of Normal.” It too pushes all blame on Madoff the elder, portraying the son as another victim. And it’s doing well for itself, coming in at No. 9 on the Amazon biography bestseller list.
American readers can’t get enough of the biography. Clyde Haberman at the City Room blog writes that there is a ritual around many of these books: “One involves publicly donning a hair shirt, in the form of agreeing to be scrutinized on television and in newspapers. That sales might be thus increased is not an incidental consideration.”
While the coarseness of the revelations may be new, the practice of writing them is not. Autobiographies have been written in the U.S. since before it was even a country. Called “spiritual memoirs,” these books were rooted in the Catholic tradition of confessing one’s sins. As The Post’s book critic Ron Charles points out, the biographies of today have a similar purpose: publicly admitting your sins — only in exchange for that humiliation, rather than salvation, you get a nice, big advance.