Monday, December 03, 2012

David Oliver Relin Has Died


David Oliver Relin, a journalist who co-authored the controversial best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, has committed suicide, the New York Times reports. He was 49.

Relin, who co-wrote the 2006 book with Greg Mortenson about how Mortenson, a former mountain climber, started building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, "suffered emotionally and financially as basic facts in the book were called into question," the Times says.

40 comments:

rhinovodka said...

I must live in a cave, as I never heard any controversy about this book. Of course, I am not on the up about literary scandals either.

Karma Chameleon said...

Seems like the silliest reason ever to commit suicide. So you're not cut out for writing, try something else, don't off yourself.

All about Eve said...

That's a sad situation, RIP

L said...

From what I recall, it was not as bad as the fabrications at the basis of "a million little pieces", but he was accused of exaggerating what he had done in Skardu

timebob said...

like everyone says its a permanent solution to a temporary problem

MISCH said...

Yes, it was caught up with that other memoir Jamie Frey ..I remember they said both had altered the "facts"
The crazy thing with memoirs is that memory is faulty ..I know my brother and I have totally different memories of things from our childhood....so who's to say which one is absolute ?
Anyway....his credibility was shot.

figgy said...

!! I know there were some questions, but I thought this impacted Moretenson far more than the co-author...?

Frufra said...

This breaks my heart. That book touched me, and really influenced me in my volunteer service. And I didn't give a hoot about the accusations, either. I thought the meaning and impact of the book were quite frankly more important than whether every story shared was factually true. To me, it was a modern day parable, whose meaning was deeper than whether it all actually transpired as written.

RIP.

Pandora928 said...

The DM said he died November 14. The story posted today says it was ruled a suicide by blunt force trauma with no other details.

Terrier Pines said...

So sad. The book was marvelous and there is no indication that the key elements - the building of schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan - were untrue.

SecondCityKid said...

I don't think anyone should say what is/or is not a reason to commit suicide, it was a personal decision he made, albeit a sad one...Rest In Peace, David Oliver Relin.

jax said...

i'll never forgive Oprah for here treatment of James Frey on her show. You'd think he killed babies as a hobby!

Call everything a novel, write what you want. Move on. That booked a LOT of people understand addiction, in them selves and their loved ones.

Fuck Oprah.

dia papaya said...

Suicide is th 10th leading cause of death in the US (37K people in 2011). It's always sad when someone takes their own life. Depression is a serious disease that needs treatment. I feel for his friends and family during this difficult time. RIP David.

Charlie Foxtrot said...

Long-time reader, first-time commenter.

I might normally agree that some misrepresentations in the book are outweighed by the good of building these much-needed schools, but it goes so much farther than that. Google "Three Cups of Deceit" by Jon Krakauer, who wrote Into Thin Air and Into the Wild and served on the board of Mortenson's foundation. The foundation spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying copies of ThreeCups of Tea to give away, with ALL royalties going to Mortenson and his co-author. Worse, the nonprofit foundation spent more than $2 million on private planes to fly Mortenson to speaking engagements, for which the speaker fee ($25,000 per appearance) went to Mortenson, not the foundation.

There's much more. Little kids were sending in money to help build schools, and way too much of it was spent on providing Mortenson with a luxurious lifestyle and a big bank account.

As others have said, nobody can say why someone chooses to commit suicide, but in this case, it's hard not to think being an unwitting participant in such a massive fraud was a factor.

Rox (used to be Roxxx) said...

I have never heard of this chap, irrespective of whether or not he was a good person, this must have still come as a shock to his family.

Timebob:
You share the best sayings, little golden nuggets of truth, which are encapsulated perfectly.


dia papaya said...

Jax - The big O really buggered that one. Now she is going to make fancy organic soaps :/ I had the (dis)pleasure of working at Harpo for a few months. Not a fun place. at. all.

Rox - I love that quote too (and use it all the time), but I think it is originally from the mouth of Mr. Phil Donahue. I miss Phil.

FS said...

Relin has a finished book awaiting publication. He was a talented writer. It's a shame that Mortenson's lies and fraud may have played a part in his death. He did not deserve to suffer because of Mortenson's massively inflated ego.

I am so sorry for his family and loved ones, depression and mental illness are tough enough, and even worse when you add the judgement and stigma society piles on top of it.

Rox (used to be Roxxx) said...

Hi Dia.
Oh I see - I never really caught Phil D over here (London). I take it he was good? Like maybe, a white middle-age, male version of Oprah?

trudi said...

60 minutes did a piece on this guy. That kind of media scrutiny is hard to overcome.

Karma Chameleon said...

I'm with Charlie Foxtrot on this, it sounds like he knew how many people he had wronged, and that it went much deeper than altering some facts.

jax said...

Dia I knew it!!!! it's not all free pedicures and fancy spritzers!

dia papaya said...

No jax it was NOT! It was not. Lot's of long brutal days, but she did feed us well. Chef on staff that cooked amazing meals everyday. That part was great!

Rox - Phil D was the original talk show host extraordinare. He set the bar. I remember him running all over his studio with that mike. My memory is not so great on this, but I think The Big O owes a lot of her success to him.

Peter said...

You seem very intelligent.. Depression and suicidal tendencies are not something one can control. People that commit suicide are not in a sane state of mind. I you don't have anything nice to say, just stfu and sit down.

Amartel said...

Charlie Foxtrot - Amen to all of that. Mortensen built a cult of personality starring himself and ripped off a lot of people, first and foremost the impoverished people of Afghanistan and also the kind-hearted people who donated money to the Three Cups of Tea foundation.

This guy should feel embarrassed; he didn't ask obvious questions of Mortensen and he profitted by that. I have a hard time believing that this was a reason or the only reason for his suicide. Also, Oprah was right to spank James Frey for flogging his fraudulent tale of personal woe. Question authority and have feelings for real things, not things that feel like they ought to be true. Truthiness is not truth.

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frufra said...

@Charlie - thanks for that - I'll check it out. Maybe there were more to the allegations than I had assumed. I always appreciate being pointed toward the right information, or at least seeing a different viewpoint.

Frufra said...

@Amartel - I agree that truthiness is not truth. But the power of myth/fiction/fable can also be a force for good in the world. I don't think anyone would argue that the basic premise of the book is false. There very well be truth to the fraud that has been exposed, but the basic message of Mortensen's work is still a good and valuable one.

auntliddy said...

Peter, u make ex point, because i was hoing to post something like what karma wrote. Point made, and taken.

Court said...

@Frufra- I'm with you. But perhaps there is more to the story.

Kelsey said...

Crazy, this book was part of the suggested reading for the incoming freshman class at a university I worked at in 2008, and Mortenson even came and spoke later that year. Inspiring book and lecture, but I hadn't kept up with what a scandal it was. My residence hall council even raised just shy of $1k to donate to the foundation. Wonder how much of that the foundation actually saw! So sad.

GladysKravitz said...

A couple of things: first, I doubt if Relin KNEW that Mortenson was being untruthful when he assisted Mortenson in writing the book. Relin was not at Mortenson's side when the events in question took place. He COWROTE the book---I suspect that Mortenson talked about his experiences (real and fictionalized) and Relin organized those experiences into a narrative.

The 60 Minutes show was about MORTENSON, not Relin.

Relin's family says he suffered from depression, so his suicide may have been only tangentially related to Three Cups of Tea (as an exacerbating factor in the mind of someone who was already predisposed to depression).

I do have to wonder---blunt force trauma to the head as the cause of suicide? How the hell did he do that?? Maybe my imagination is limited, but all I could conjure was the image of him standing beneath a safe that he'd rigged to fall on his head, ten stories down.

Amartel said...

Hi Fru, Do you see how Mortensen used that "feel good" message for personal profit? Truthiness is what people feel should be true, not what's actually true; that's why it's so seductive. We want to believe. Knowing now what I've learned about Mortensen, the most valuable message of his work is to question authority, especially authority that we want to believe.

Frufra said...

@Ama - great point. You've given me something to think about for sure. I just love a good Monday afternoon CDAN discussion - I learn so much here!

katsm0711 said...

Wow u worked at Harpo @dia? I can't imagine all the stories you're too sweet to spill!

__-__=__ said...

auntliddy - please stop hoing. Before you know it someone will need an ass licking.

Robin the Mad Photographer said...

Gladys: I'm guessing that perhaps he jumped off something and landed head first? It's about the only thing that makes sense to me...

auntliddy said...

Good one -=-!!! Naturally i meant going.

auntliddy said...

Yeah, did he like hit himself in the head? Thats not possible i dont think.

auntliddy said...

What jax said. Times two.

DBZee said...

Sad story. I remember when the book came out, and the subsequent scandal. Mortenson is a tremendous ass who used the sentiment built up by his book to pad his very comfy lifestyle.

I feel so bad for Mr Relin. As someone who fights with depression, having my personal and professional life tainted in such a way as to imply I would knowingly cheat and steal from children to finance my lifestyle - that would devastate me. Untreated depression (even unmanaged depression) can cause incidents like being to devastated to become "I am a complete failure and shouldn't be on this earth." When you're in the bottom of the abyss, even the most ridiculous solution may seem reasonable, if it makes the pain stop. :(