Monday, February 13, 2006

Answering the James Frey question

It is time to break my silence. Living in New Orleans, it is sometimes hard to discern what the real important news stories are, so when the James Frey thing broke, I didn't imagine that it would be the most important news story of the century. Even after the fifth or sixth editorial, I kept thinking somehow that the world would move on to something else. But no, today there is this. Because really there's nothing else in the world that might warrant a few more inches of press.

I can understand why the question of truth matters. And I'm limited in my position to comment on A Million Little Pieces because I didn't ever read it. I did read (and review) My Friend Leonard--skeptically--and loved it. What I found moving was the whole desolate mood of the piece, the sense of isolation and loneliness, and the way in which his friend, Leonard, almost seems imaginary for most of the book. And, of course, those pit bulls.

It was the pit bull connection that inspired me to send a copy of my book, The Dogs Who Found Me, to James Frey and ask for a blurb. And, months later, after Oprah anointed him, but before she brought him down, he sent a blurb along. So now I get questions.

Answers to most of these questions:
1. Yes, I do think it is a problem that much of his memoir was invented.
2. No, I don't think the world will end because of it.
3. Yes, I do find it curious that people are so enraged by this incident, but not so much by JT Leroy, who really hoodwinked people and has not come forward with any explanation or apology.

But what I find most curious can't be answered so quickly and that is this:
1. What was Oprah thinking when she asked his publisher "How could you have believed this story?" Hadn't she believed it too?
2. What was Oprah's staff thinking when she blamed them for her support of Frey and later urged Frey to take responsbility for his actions as the first step in healing?
3. What was Nan Talese thinking when she claimed that memoirs aren't non-fiction?
4. What the hell did Warner Brothers mean to suggest when they announced that the planned film of A Million Little Pieces might not be made because it no longer had the integrity they felt they had optioned? Are they known for never altering a story--even a true one--when they bring it to the screen?
5. How is it that Sean McDonald now says that he was misled just as everyone else, when a few months ago he was insisting that he had verified the story was true? In which of these statements is he maybe lying, or perhaps "misremembering"?

Well, now that I've alienated the entire industry, I think I'll shut up.

1 comment:

Jennifer W. said...

I really can't stand Oprah after that whole Hermes incident, where she bitched about race for not being let into their store after hours to buy some damn thousand-dollar handbag. So until she has a show dedicated to her menstrual periods and how many dumps she takes a day, I'm going to have to go ahead and say that she's just as altered as any other fictional persona. She's got more books on the Oprah's book club list than I've read in my lifetime, and all I do is read. Ugggggghhhhhh.