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Thread: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

  1. #61
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    I haven't read the book, nor have I watched any interviews with the author - the only information I have on the subject is reading all of the news articles, etc. It seems like one of the main points is should this book be labeled 'fiction' versus 'non-fiction'. After having what seems like almost every scenario in this book revealed as an 'embellishment', I tend to feel it should be marketed as fiction. If every situation you recall about your life in the book has been embellished, at what point does it stop being non-fiction?

    Would it be considered a mere embellishment if someone was at a party and told everyone there they were an astronaut, when in reality, they just answer phones at the Kennedy Space Center? If yes, fine, then how about if that person were to write a memoir of their life and include that little embellishment? For example, I think for the author to place such importance on the fact he spent 87 days in jail, when in reality it was only a few hours waiting for a friend to post a couple hundred dollars bail is just too far of a stretch. Or trying to include yourself in a story about the girl getting hit by the train, when in reality you had nothing to do with that situation except knowing the girl - what embellishment is that, isn't that just plain made-up fiction?

    And the problem is, he tried to shop around the manuscript as a work of fiction, and no one was buying it. It was only after he switched it to non-fiction that it got noticed (and sold) - probably his most egregious embellishment of all: calling a piece of fiction, a work of non-fiction.

    Oh well, if anything, maybe this fiasco will cause more sensationalistic works of 'non-fiction' to be examined more closely for accuracy, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

  2. #62
    FORT Fan momof2dogs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CCL View Post
    Ok, let me say upfront that I haven't read this book (not really my area of literature). So I'm not as invested as others. That said, I have to say I'm in the camp that says "so what?" All memoirs contain fictional elements, whether it is the writer embellishing a past event or maybe leaving out an important event that could affect the viewer's opinion of him/her. I doubt any autobiography or memoir is 100 % accurate. Frey did go beyond the point of mere embroidery, true enough. But it is his story of his past life and not an independent article on someone else's past life. To the point - should he have been more truthful? Maybe so. Should he have included a disclaimer saying that all events might not have transpired 100 % as written? That would have been good. But, regardless, I think the author has been crucified above and beyond. I wish they'd just leave him alone already. As for Oprah - I saw parts of the Oprah show and she came off as totally sanctimonious.
    Anyways, that's my 2 cents.
    CCL, Although (not having read the book) this guy's lies seem WAY out of bounds with normal discrepancies or embellishments you might expect to find in a memoir, somehow I'm most annoyed with Oprah out of all this! She recommended the book, she didn't want to admit that maybe it wasn't the greatest choice, and she screwed up on Larry King. Her response on Larry King and on her own show seemed more about salvaging her own ego than anything else. The last couple of years she has tried to present herself as this great human being - charitable, wise, compassionate - and then she goes and wants to sue Hermes for not letting her shop after hours (implying it was a racist action). Nice priorities. I am so over her.
    "if at first you don't succeed, destroy any evidence that you ever tried" - The Office

  3. #63
    Bitten Critical's Avatar
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    I love Erica Jong. She says it perfectly
    The truth about books (and us)

    By Erica Jong Tue Feb 7, 7:12 AM ET

    By now everyone from Oprah Winfrey, the queen of candor, to Maureen Dowd, the queen of clever, to Liz Smith, the queen of gossip, has weighed in about the Strange Case of James Frey - as Dickens might have termed it. OK, we know the basics: Frey published a "memoir" - whether on his own say-so or at the request of his publisher is not clear.

    There are more than 3.9 million copies in print, and The Smoking Gun found that he did not spend months in jail, among other exaggerations and inaccuracies. Oprah chastised the author on her show, and he looked suicidal. After Oprah changed her mind about the book because of its lying, the author also sheepishly agreed with her. Does he have no opinions of his own?

    I've now read it (chalk up one more copy sold) and found it sloppily written and emotionally bankrupt (capitalizing nouns as people did in the 18th century does not emphasize their importance - it's just a typographical tic). I've been to the famed Minnesota recovery clinic Hazelden, and the scenes there are impossible.

    The story smells fishy and overblown even if you've never been to Hazelden. Many of its scenes and riffs seem drawn from melodramatic movies such as the one about Billie Holiday, Ray Charles or Johnny Cash. As a reader, you just feel that Frey's upping the ante - which is what writers do - but usually we call that fiction.

    Blurring the line

    Yes, the line between fiction and non-fiction has blurred in the past several decades. Henry Miller blurred it, as did William Burroughs and Hunter Thompson. I wrote a mock-memoir in Fear of Flying (1973) and added to the tendency - though I did cover my rampant exaggerations by calling the book a novel. It was my critics who claimed it as autobiography, not me. I always copped to the fact that it was full of made-up stuff and that I made stuff up for the sake of laughs. "Don't cut funny" has been my writing mantra since I started.

    Suppose I had turned in that novel to my editor in 1971 with the words "a novel" on the title page, and my editor convinced me that the book would sell better if published as a memoir? That's hard to imagine because the times were different - books were not so far down the food chain - but, for the sake of argument, let's pretend.

    My publisher puts it out as a memoir. It becomes a phenomenon. And all the talk shows that didn't want me before now want me (which is pretty much what happened). I go on TV to sell my book, and Larry King asks me whether the book is true. I would say, as I did then: "The book is full of exaggerations and funny send-ups and outrageous riffs, 'cause that's what writers do." I would not have claimed I was writing gospel truth. Why should I? I couldn't have pulled it off with sincerity, and neither could Frey.

    It's this that has writers everywhere pissed off at Frey (that and being an Oprah selection, which everybody envies). It wasn't just that he published the book as a memoir when it was full of obvious exaggerations and untruths, but that he stuck to his story unconvincingly. Why not just say: "Books are hard to sell in this television-besotted world, and I wanted to sell my book so I fibbed. I still stand behind the emotional truth of my book. It felt like I was in jail for months."

    Honesty could have saved him

    If Frey had been self-effacing and honest, who could have objected? It's difficult to sell books, and authors are desperate. Few people have time to read. Most talk shows want only Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie boxing. Authors used to appear on The Tonight Show in Johnny Carson's day (we appeared last, of course), but we're no longer welcome.

    Promoting books is tough. So who could blame Frey for courting Oprah and obeying his publisher? I don't. But he didn't have to dither around on Larry King. He could have just said: "Writers exaggerate, and I'm a writer." End of story.

    But then, he never would have gotten all that ink. So maybe he's a lot smarter than I thought he was. Still, there's no denying that much of this blurring of the line between fiction and fact has gotten trickier - since we've had a misleader in chief who says "clear skies" for pollution, and we have a Pentagon that says "transfer cases" for the shipping of human remains nstead of the body bags we spoke of during the Vietnam War. The American language has been utterly polluted from the top down.

    I used to think that it didn't much matter who was president because we still had our system of separation of powers and a piece of parchment called The Constitution and a Bill of Rights to protect us. I have been proven wrong. This White House and its minions have outdone all previous ones in propitiating the Big Lie. And they still seem to be getting away with it - unlike the Clinton White House - despite plummeting poll numbers. They seem to know something woolly admirers of the Enlightenment (like me) don't: The American people are too busy, too stressed, too underpaid and undereducated to realize how thoroughly they've been rooked. If you can perfect fake news, fake reporters, fake slogans - and charge the poorest taxpayers for them - there's no limit to how far you can go. Throw in some electronic voting machines with no paper trails, and you can spin this theory of the Potemkin presidency out forever.

    Character no longer matters, nor does truth - whatever that is. But you can tell the truth in books - at least for a little while longer (probably because nobody reads 'em) - so books remain the final repository for truth. Let's not lose that, OK?

    Erica Jong, poet, novelist and memoirist, has a memoir, Seducing the Demon, coming out in March.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20060207/cm_usatoday/thetruthaboutbooksandus;_ylt=A nIkiKMAZD_IbYtkmr7bweKs0NUE;_y lu=X3oDMTA3YWFzYnA2BHNlYwM3NDI-
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

  4. #64
    GSBian Basket*Case's Avatar
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    Haven't read it because my mom won't allow it but I hear it's really good.
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  5. #65
    Livin' the life Dinahann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Critical View Post
    I love Erica Jong. She says it perfectly
    Thanks for the post, Critical. I'm a big fan of Erica Jong, and I think she summed up the truth of the matter nicely.

    I've not read the Frey memoir because I'm a little burnt out on the whole concept of treatment. It's all just blah, blah blah to me. My degree is in drug and alcohol abuse counseling but I've come to think that it's every person for themself. If they want to quit they will, if they don't they won't, and they'll find every reason under the sun to excuse their behavior. One story is pretty much the same as the next.

    If the book helps, it helps, and it doesn't really matter to me if it's the truth or not.
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  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dinahann View Post
    Thanks for the post, Critical. I'm a big fan of Erica Jong, and I think she summed up the truth of the matter nicely.

    I've not read the Frey memoir because I'm a little burnt out on the whole concept of treatment. It's all just blah, blah blah to me. My degree is in drug and alcohol abuse counseling but I've come to think that it's every person for themself. If they want to quit they will, if they don't they won't, and they'll find every reason under the sun to excuse their behavior. One story is pretty much the same as the next.

    If the book helps, it helps, and it doesn't really matter to me if it's the truth or not.
    This is the best post I've read concerning this book.
    The Pats will be back next year. Watch out.....

  7. #67
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    Tempest in a teapot or actual scandal?

    Publisher drops James Frey in wake of scandal
    Author had been under contract to write two books for Riverhead Books

    Oprah Winfrey confronted author James Frey about exaggerations and falsehoods in his bestselling memoir "A Million Little Pieces"

    NEW YORK - James Frey, who admitted last month he made up much of his best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” has been dropped by his publisher, Riverhead Books, Frey’s representative said Thursday.

    Frey’s unmasking and public confession to Oprah Winfrey, the daytime television host whose endorsement catapulted the drug-rehab memoir to the top of the bestsellers list, has rocked the U.S. publishing industry, stirring debate about the nature of memoirs and the importance of accuracy.

    After writing “A Million Little Pieces” for Random House, Frey moved with his editor Sean McDonald to Penguin imprint Riverhead Books, which published his second book, “My Friend Leonard,” last June. Riverhead then contracted Frey to write two more books, one of them a novel, for an undisclosed sum.
    Story continues below ↓ advertisement

    Penguin said last month that deal was “under discussion” and Frey’s representative, Lisa Kussell, said Thursday the deal had been canceled.

    “All I can say is he no longer has a deal with them,” Kussell said, declining to give any more details.

    Penguin spokesman David Zimmer declined to comment.

    The uproar over Frey’s book started when the Smoking Gun Web site said it could find no public records supporting the author’s claim he had spent three months in jail after trying to run over a police officer with his car.

    Frey’s book sold more than 1.77 million copies last year after being chosen by Winfrey for her Book Club.

    On another appearance on Winfrey’s show last month, Frey admitted that much of the book was fiction. He spent two hours in jail, not 87 days, and an account of his breaking up with a woman who later committed suicide was condensed in time and changed, he said.

    The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Warner Brothers was reconsidering plans to make a movie version of “A Million Little Pieces.”

    Despite the controversy Frey’s sales remain strong.

    “A Million Little Pieces” was in the No. 2 spot on The New York Times’ latest paperback non-fiction bestseller list, just behind Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” which is Winfrey’s latest Book Club recommendation. “My Friend Leonard” was in fifth place on the hardcover non-fiction list.

    --

    I've read plenty of 'memoirs' that carry the tiniest disclaimer which is something to the effect of 'parts dramatized for the purpose of story telling.' That simple statement would have saved this guy a boat load of trouble.
    home at last

  8. #68
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    I really don't know why anyone lies about anything any more. There is just no way that someone somewhere isn't going to hunt down the facts with the express intention of making the person making claims about anything look like a boob.
    All I wanted was a 45, a stinking 45 - the record or the gun. I'd even settle for the damn malt liquor. - Al Bundy.

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kennedy View Post
    I've read plenty of 'memoirs' that carry the tiniest disclaimer which is something to the effect of 'parts dramatized for the purpose of story telling.' That simple statement would have saved this guy a boat load of trouble.
    I've been following this story since I finished the book and 2 weeks later, the Smoking Gun did their investigative piece.

    Having just seen the movie, CAPOTE, where Truman invented the genre now known as the Non-Fiction Novel, Frey could easily have had his book published under this description. Truman incorporated facts and fiction, to write In Cold Blood and NO ONE came after him, asking to verify every single sentence.

    I don't know if it was Frey's addict personality or greed, or both, that made him believe that he was above being investigated. Geez, even parents with dating teenagers do more computer background checks on prospective mates then editors did for Frey.
    Still crazy, after all these shears

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  10. #70
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    Well, I'm nearly done this book, so I feel qualified to comment now.

    First off - there's no freaking way Oprah read this book. For all her faults, she's obviously intelligent, and no one who has a cynical bone in their body would think Frey's work was anything but fiction. Oh, certain things ring true, and there are several brilliant passages - I'm surprised that he couldn't sell it as a novel - but too much of it was way over the top to be a believable memoir.

    Second, and the book's most glaring fault, is the tough-guy stance Frey takes as the protagonist. It sounds like it was written by a wuss who wishes he was a badass. I can buy him as a defiant adolescent but not a jailbird.

    Third, the capitalized Nouns are pretentious and distracting. If he was too lazy to write in proper dialogue form, fine, but at times I felt like I was reading a menu written in Olde English.

    Fourth - yeah, it's not nice to twist facts about two teenagers who were killed in an accident, but the girl's mom interviewed didn't seem put off by Frey's recounting. If she doesn't care, then I sure don't. The garbage about the criminal charges is more pathetic than anything.

    Fourth and final point - it doesn't matter that it's not all true. It's a decent read, and it would make a great movie - hope that project doesn't fall apart in the wake of this scandal. Bottom line, the guy was an addict and successfully completed rehab. I suspect that's what enamours him to the substance abusers, past and present, that read his book. If I was an addict that failed at the 12-step program, I would find this story really inspiring. Anyone else can read it and enjoy it for what it is - a fictionalized memoir. Forget the artist and focus on the art. It's original and compelling, and that's enough of a reason for it to be remaining on best-seller lists.

    And Oprah - next time you slap one of your coveted stickers on a book, read the damn thing first, OK? You can save up your moral outrage and righteous indignation for something more important, like the next hurricane or the next time some pompous store manager doesn't let you in his shop to browse after hours.
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