Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction? Apparently Not

Some of you may have heard that Oprahically acclaimed author James Frey seems to have taken liberties with the truth in his memior, "A Million Little Pieces." Although Frey stands by the truth of his story,'s investigation into the book has discovered many inconsistencies between Frey's story and public records.

In response, the book's publishers -- DoubleDay and Anchor Books -- released this statement. Via the NYTs:
Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence," said a statement issued by Doubleday and Anchor Books, the divisions of Random House Inc. that published the book in hardcover and paperback, respectively. "By definition, it is highly personal. In the case of Mr. Frey, we decided 'A Million Little Pieces' was his story, told in his own way, and he represented to us that his version of events was true to his recollections.

Recent accusations against him notwithstanding, the power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story for millions of readers.
They may be walking a fine line, but they do have a point. All of us have either exaggerated or concentrated on certain details when telling a personal story that may not align with others recollections or have instead made the story more mythic in proportion. That said, Frey pawned his work off as his true experience, and barring schizophrenia, he lied to his readers -- an indefensible sleight of hand.

But let's not get ridiculous and tie Frey's falsities to the news media or a broader politico-cultural trend toward dissembling. Frey's book has absolutely no impact on democracy, unlike the news media when it self-censors or when it's lazy or lax with the truth. So hopefully this Frey matter will drop off the radar quickly, because the public does directly control the fate of James Frey, unlike the American government. The marketplace doesn't like unrepentant liars and if Frey's book is a bunch of bullshit, no one will buy his subsequent works and he will become just another "could have been." This is a shame since he must be a gifted author. One has to wonder why he didn't just meld autobiography with fiction like Orwell did in "Down and Out in Paris and London."