It is generally concluded that writers are professional liars (and, in at least one case, overhyped dupes who manage to fool the literary world). However, when a writer pens a memoir, is there not a certain expectation of truth? Even if the details are fudged a bit here and there, or entirely fabricated, shouldn’t a memoir writer ground his story in some rudimentary reality?
The Smoking Gun launched a six-week investigation and found that James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, had fabricated many elements of his alleged criminal past. Frey, it seems, managed to fool Oprah (and, admittedly, this litblogger). What’s interesting is that instead of responding directly to the allegations, Frey remarked that this was the “latest attempt to discredit me….I stand by my book, and my life, and I won’t dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response.”
According to TSG, Frey’s been dignifying it all in other ways. He had the court records pertaining to several incidents purged. There were no records from the prosecuting attorney, who kept a record “on any case that came in whether or not it resulted in felony charges.” Despite daily episodes of recurrent vomiting and bleeding and addiction, Frey somehow managed to graduate from Denison University in four years. But most interestingly, the alleged “cracked-out” incident that threw Frey into rehab simply involved Frey with an open bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. No billy cubs flung, no .29 blood-alcohol content, and certainly no crack.
When we consider that Frey originally tried to sell his memoir as a novel, one wonders precisely whether much of A Million Little Pieces was actually changed. Indeed, in hindsight, it’s quite interesting to see how trusting the literary world was of Frey’s astonishing memoir, which was billed as the tell-all memoir to end all tell-all memoirs. Has the publishing atmosphere proven so antiseptic in its subject matter that only a sensationalized memoir can polarize its attentions?
[UPDATE: Amazingly, this whole question of “the truth” has inspired Neal Pollack to serve up the funniest thing he’s written since he became a humorless family man and told people to shut up about a conflict that has been almost universally acknowledged as a bona-fide clusterfuck without reasonable justification. Perhaps there’s hope for Pollack yet!]