Stephen Glass made headlines in 1998 when he was fired by The New Republic for fabricating more than 25 articles. Since then, he has graduated from Georgetown Law School, is an aspiring lawyer and has written his first novel, The Fabulist, a fictionalized account of his experiences as a writer. Read Chapter 1 of The Fabulist.
Part One: Downfall
A SPECTACULAR crash, I've learned, is the quickest way to incredible accomplishment. In the summer of 1998, when I was twenty-five years old and sure of where I was going in the world, I suddenly became both Washington's most disgraced journalist and its fastest-rising star. It actually happened in that order: fall first, rise second. After I fell, my preceding achievements were greatly overstated so that my plunge, as deep and as fast as it was, would make sense.
Although I have been given many opportunities to explain myself, I have never previously discussed the events of that summer. My decision to step away now from years of self-imposed silence has more to do with physical distance than the passage of time. Removed from Washington, I am for the first time less ashamed — even less afraid.
Please don't misunderstand me: What I did was a terrible mistake — a serious, damaging wrong — and they are correct to say so. However, there are some individuals, journalists mainly, who think I should always be ashamed, and perhaps always afraid, too. Because they are liberals, and have faith in rehabilitation, they never speak of it that way, but I believe they feel it profoundly. They cannot understand how after violating all their rules, fair and important rules, I go on living among them. If I am not punished further, what good is the salutary order they have imposed?
Because I know of so many who feel this way, I am conscious that some of my colleagues and friends, present and former, will be suspicious of my motives in offering this account. They will see it as just one more lie; an eleventh-hour, last-gasp, back-from-the-dead effort to spin things my way again.
And, on one level, it is.
Nothing would make me so happy as your liking me once more. But I don't expect that. Not now, not after all that's happened. I can only tell my story and hope for the best.
Here are Allison and I, walking into our apartment, hand in hand. We're giggling, giddy, and pleased with the world. As usual, her pixie blond hair and gamine charm go straight to my heart: I can't believe how fortunate I am to be with her. Allison had me from our first kiss, maybe even from the first time I heard her slight Brazilian accent, and ever since, I've chosen to ignore the flaws in our relationship in favor of its virtues.
It is the middle of the afternoon, on the first day of our weeklong vacation, and we've just come back from the movies. Allison believed you were never as free as when you were sitting in a weekday matinee. Before that afternoon, though, we hadn't been to a movie in months, let alone a matinee. I had always been working, even on weekends. Although I was The Washington Weekly's youngest staff writer, I was also one of its most prolific and, increasingly, one of its better known. And though I had expected and promised Allison that with some success would come a commensurate calm, my anxiety had only increased proportionately, and my efforts to allay it through long hours had only grown.
Allison checked our answering machine. "You have six new messages. First message: 10:49 a.m."