Wednesday, January 18, 2006

James Frey and the case of The Smoking Gun

I am offended. The recent revelations regarding James Frey’s “memoir,” “A Million Little Pieces,” has had me doing back-flips in my head for the past week. I haven’t read the book, nor do I intend to. I don’t need to – my life is far more interesting, inspirational and real than, as it turns out, his is. Telling the truth is IMPORTANT. It is a huge stretch between protecting individuals by changing names places and dates, not remembering specific chronology, specific dialogue, etc. and fabricating events that never occurred. I am offended.

Without going into a lot of details, I knew that many of his claims (from interviews, second hand retellings from his book and reviews) were fabricated. I know this from having experienced many similar events first hand. The little details didn’t add up. To those that have not gone through such situations, these events may seem plausible, even credible. What he has done is akin to plagiarism. He has appropriated other’s experiences and made them his own.

Look, I have many friends who have spent time in prison (state and federal), and many more (myself included) that have done significant time in many local county jails. They are NOT the same world. I am intimately familiar with many of the aspects of day-to-day prison life. I could, if I so desired, write a compelling and believable account of what that is like. Believable to all but those who have been there. Experience cannot be duplicated by proximity.

So I questioned the veracity of Mr. Frey’s accounts long before The Smoking Gun did their first rate expose´ of him. Now more than just a sneaking suspicion or a “feeling,” evidence has my back. Besides discrediting what Mr. Frey claims to be “less than five percent of the book,” it brings the entire book into question. Unfortunately, because many of the witnesses, sources, etc. are conveniently unavailable, these claims will never be subject to objective scrutiny. However, as Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either,” it casts reasonable doubt upon everything he says, in or out of his book.

As far as Oprah, Doubleday, Larry King or Frey's blindly devoted fans are concerned, ask yourself whether this is what you expect from non-fiction. If so, perhaps I should choose another genre. When I write, you may count on it being the truth. If non-fiction no longer means truthful, then perhaps I will start a new genre - “honest non-fiction.” And if that becomes tainted, it’ll become “really honest non-fiction, honest.” And so on. I’m sticking by my guns. I firmly believe that if a book is bought under the pretense that it is truthful, it better be just that, no matter what anyone else says.



Jamie Dawn said...

I agree that a non-fiction book should contain real life, truthful events and the written word should match real life experiences as they are relayed in the book. I have a friend who writes historical fiction. He takes real events, places and even some people that lived in the past, and he creates a fictional story that contains some real life historical truths. Maybe James Frey should have said up front that parts of the book were fictional. Too bad it had to come to this big hoopla ado.
Thanks for dropping in on my blog today.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

He calls this book a "memorior" which is up for literary interpretation. That being said, if he is presenting this book as an autobiography, it should in fact be true. If your writer cannot have some form of rigous honesty, and calls the book true, then what is the point of reading it? I have the book, and now am not sure I want to read it.

Thank you for coming by my blog today.

The Zombieslayer said...

Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either

That Einstein guy was one smart man.

As for James Frey, have no idea who that is. I do know that that Men are from Mars guy's a quack.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Yea, taught him everything he knew! ;p

Unknown said...

I agree with you 100%. And, to answer your question about the latest post on my blog, yes, it is a true story. My mom can attest to the details, although probably not the minor details since it is I who has the uncanny ability to remember even the smallest of small details.

I teach writing, and I do value and honor the 'non-fiction' genre. I do believe that truth is stranger than fiction, and that's what my blog is all about. :)

You might enjoy my other blog (which is not written in memoir form, but is all about me.)

Sandra said...

When I first saw Frey on Oprah I had a feeling he was full of crap. Don't know why I felt that way, but my instincts seem to be accurate. Journalism sure ain't what it usta be, huh?

Saur♥Kraut said...

I'm not familiar with this book, but you're absolutely correct about the diff between prison and jail. I know people who've been in both (one is a good friend of mine, actually). I wouldn't have know the difference, otherwise.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

You write so beautifully! My Lordy...You writing leaves my breathless!
Now, I'm going to go read the 'after the Oprah Show' post...
As you know, I agree with everything you said here, 110%!