Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Major Little Scandal

I read 's memoir last spring. As I often do, I picked up a book on a table in a bookstore that looked interesting, read the back and ended up taking it home. The story blew me away. A kid that is a drug addict, alcoholic and major fuck-up, goes to rehab and makes good. It had a dental scene that may be one of the most harrowing things I have ever read. Short, staccato sentences. Stuff you just can't put down. I read his follow up. "My Friend Leonard" before Christmas- didn't like it as much, but it was still effective. There were things in the story that just seemed too much, how is it possible that one person is going through so much but it is a true story, right? So there you go. It's a true story. This happened. Except not so much. The Smoking Gun has published an article calling into question a number of the events that Frey details in "A Million Little Pieces". It has a become a bit of a scandal and Frey went onto to discuss it. (Why is that man still on TV? Is there a bigger sycophantic fuck than Larry King? Ok, yes there is- James Lipton.) Didn't see Frey and ole Larry, but the articles I have read have detailed that Oprah called defending Frey (It was one of her book club books. I want it on the record that I read it months before she suggested it. Not that I have anything against Oprah's book club. I think it's great. I just want credit for reading the thing before Oprah made it the best selling book by any American author last year.) Frey has now admitted to changing and making up details in the book. He gets around this in "My Friend Leonard" with a disclaimer at the beginning of the book. There is no disclaimer for "Pieces". Frey claims that it is only a small part of the book that was changed but I disagree. The events that he created push much of the action of the book and color who you think the protagonist is. I say protagonist rather than James Frey because I can't think of the book as a memoir any longer. I agree with Frey and his publisher’s assertions that "Memoirs are by nature imperfect and subjective". Conversations are going to be distilled down to make them more interesting, events crafted. . .This is the nature of the beast. However there is a huge difference with that and creating entire events that never took place. Like going to jail. Like the manipulating the time line, events and involvement in the death of a female friend. I don't think changing your age from 17 to 12 when two girls die in a car/train wreck and then claiming that the town turns on you and blames you for the accident is a small thing. It really is a shame. It's a great read, but the only thing that lifts it out of being melodrama is the thought that the events are true. I respect Mr. Frey for recovering from his drug and alcohol abuse and for his writing style. It sucked me in. His story was one that I found very compelling and I thought would make a fantastic film. But I have no interest reading anything else this man writes. He has lost my trust. Can you imagine how Tobias Wolff would be crucified if it was suddenly discovered that major events in his memoir This Boy's Life weren't true? Hey! Maybe his stepfather was a swell guy? Maybe the terrible events in Lucky by Alice Sebold never happened. Maybe Dave Eggers exaggerated things in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Maybe he didn't help raise his younger brother when his parents died. Heck! Maybe, his parents didn't die. That's okay! After all, "Memoirs are by nature imperfect and subjective." Yeah right. Wolff, Sebold and Eggers are wonderful writers and I am very comfortable making the assertion that they did not make up events in their memoirs. Why did Frey feel the need? Simple rule. If you are writing a memoir. . . you don't make shit up! (Can you tell that I am upset about this?)

3 Comments:

At 1/13/2006 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Coincidentally, I just started "A Million Little Pieces" last night...

 
At 1/13/2006 01:22:00 PM, Blogger neil h said...

Did you get annoyed by 'Fargo' and 'Blair Witch' as well?

 
At 1/13/2006 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

actually no since they are works of fiction. . . I even have a Fargo snowglobe. There is a dead, bloddy body next to an upturned car and the francis McDormand character looking down at it. Is one of my favorite things ever- :)

Keep reading it Kate- curious to hear what you think.

 

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