Thursday, January 26, 2006

The James Frey controversy

Writer James Frey has run contrary to Oprah Winfrey by revealing that his book, "A Million Tiny Pieces," is not a factual memoir as he has represented it. In several instances, portions of the best-selling book have overblown the truth of Mr. Frey's addiction and recovery. One point in particular is his assertion that he was imprisoned for three months -- the truth is, it was a few hours.

The questions about the truth of his tale had been raised by Frey subsequently appeared on Larry King Live and was questioned about the discrepancies; Oprah called in to defend him.

Since then, Oprah has further investigated Frey's manuscript and withdrawn her support of Frey. Now she is on the warpath, knowing she was intentionally duped.

Questions she and others have raised: Why wasn't it written as a novel? Why did he sell this book as a memoir?

Today's episode of Oprah will further deal with this as Frey appears again on the show to defend or explain his decisions. (The morning broadcast in some areas was interrupted by the President's address.)

Bottom line: Tell the truth if you're claiming that the piece you are writing is "the truth." If you're not writing a truthful account of the facts, label it as fiction or a "novel based on facts." Don't lie. Don't deceive your readers.

Isn't that part of recovery, anyway?


Erudite Redneck said...

This dude's not in recovery. He just hasn't had a drink in a long time. Big diff.

Trixie said...

True, true, true. Right now it's looking like he really didn't learn anything while he was detoxing.

Mark said...

I agree with you, Trixie. If he writes fiction, he should have just submitted it to the publisher as fiction and there wouldn't be the controversy there is today.

Trixie said...

Apparently he submitted the book several times as a work of fiction. Here's a key passage from The Smoking Gun's report on this:

Of course, if "A Million Little Pieces" was fictional, just some overheated stories of woe, heartache, and debauchery cooked up by a wannabe author, it probably would not get published. As it was, Frey's original manuscript was rejected by 17 publishers before being accepted by industry titan Nan Talese, who runs a respected boutique imprint at Doubleday (Talese reportedly paid Frey a $50,000 advance). According to a February 2003 New York Observer story by Joe Hagan, Frey originally tried to sell the book as a fictional work, but the Talese imprint "declined to publish it as such." A retooled manuscript, presumably with all the fake stuff excised, was published in April 2003 amid a major publicity campaign.