The Requisite Writer Writing About Frey Entry

I’ve watched this whole Frey debacle WRT A Million Little Pieces being a memoir or an outright fabrication with increasing interest and horror.

In the first place, I get that there’s pressure on authors to market themselves a certain way. I really do. But that is not what this is about.

Oprah and Frey and Frey’s publisher are all very quick to tell us that memoirs are not about a true recollection of events. Hmm. They aren’t? Because while I would agree that everyone sees the past through the lens of their own lives and biases and remembrances can be faulty or certainly differ from others’ memories of the same event – one either went to jail for three months on a cocaine charge and got into a fight with cops or one got pulled over for an open container and did no time. There is not an issue of different memories here, this is an outright fabrication and that’s what fiction is for.

Memoirs are not meant to be fiction. That’s what “fiction” is for. Writers face issues of truth and marketing and the temptation to spice things up to make themselves more marketable all the time. But in truth, this is a matter of Frey lying and getting caught.

Does that mean A Million Little Pieces hasn’t touched people? No. But the inescapable reality is that he lied. Saying that one just lied a little and therefore did not lie but simply “embellished” the story would have been true if it had indeed been embellishment. But Frey has passed embellishment and embraced fraud.

Sadly, I must be jaded because while I’m annoyed at the situation, the the only thing I can get really het up over is that he’s slapped the face of people who’ve extended themselves and written honest and amazing memoirs by stating that a memoir can be outright fiction. That’s lazy.

4 comments to “The Requisite Writer Writing About Frey Entry”

  1. Millenia Black
    January 24th, 2006 at 2:52 pm · Link

    In Oprah’s defense, she never said memoirs weren’t to be a true recollection of events. She said she, like most all readers, relies on the publisher to appropriately categorize their publications. She says she defends the positive effect the message of getting off of drugs holds.

    I agree 100% that James Frey lied. Would Oprah have picked this book if she’d know that? I seriously doubt it. No way.

  2. Lauren Dane
    January 24th, 2006 at 3:03 pm · Link

    You’re right that she sidestepped the issue by throwing it back to the publisher.

    That she stayed in Frey’s corner and even called in to Larry King’s show disappointed me greatly because if you can’t count on the AUTHOR to tell the truth (and his family, who’ve all been on TV to talk about the book and his supposed life) has pretty much eroded any respect I had for her on this matter.

    I love that she encourages people to read with her book club choices (there are several books I count in my all time favorite list like Rapture of Canaan and Mother of Pearl that I never would have read if I hadn’t seen them at the display in the bookstore). But I think she needs to hold Frey responsible here. He’d know more than anyone else whether or not his book is fiction or fact.

  3. lili
    January 25th, 2006 at 6:10 am · Link

    Rapture of Canaan is a beautiful book. I completely forgot I’d read it until just now. So sad that I’d forget a book I loved so much when I read it.

    There’s no escaping that Frey should’ve seen it coming and marketed his book as fact-based fiction, based on actual events, hinting around sketchy episodes. There are times when memories won’t give themselves up, so we fill them in as best we can based on our knowledge of the people and the event, but that’s not what Frey did.

  4. Millenia Black
    January 25th, 2006 at 12:03 pm · Link

    You’re right, Lauren. I agree. I think Oprah should hold him more accountable, too.

    Did you see how happy his mother was on Larry King that night? Clapping when Oprah said the message still resonates with her? I think they were more nervous about what she’d say than Frey let on when Larry asked.

    I’ve said before that I think she had more to say to him privately. Somehow I just don’t think she’d admonish him publicly. She didn’t even do that with J. Franzen.