Friday, January 13, 2006

A Million Little Opinions + Mine

I got quoted in the Red Eye yesterday on the hullabaloo surrounding James Frey and whether or not he was completely truthful in his autobiography, A Million Little Pieces. While it was cool to be quoted in the Red Eye, I was a little disappointed with the part of my quote they actually used. What they accurately quoted me as saying is:
I liken the whole thing to online cheating: morally it's wrong, but technically it's no big deal. Lying about your life story is like cheating at solitaire - the only person who will really suffer is you. If you write a story that you pass off as non-fiction, it should be truthful and accurate. Otherwise, the only legacy you will leave behind is that you are a liar.
But the best point I made was that I am considering Frey's book in the same vein as I consider The Bible - probably full of fabrications, however the underlying themes are the messages you need to abstract:

Do I believe that the world flooded for 40 days and 40 nights and that one man rescued two of every living creature? No.

But do I believe in the idea of second chances and new beginnings? Yes.

Do I believe that men stomped their feet and blew their horns so the walls of Jericho would tumble to the ground? No.

But do I believe in the power of community? Yes.

Do I believe that Samson lost all of his strength when Delilah cut his hair off? No.

But do I believe that love can come back and bite you in the ass? Hell yeah.

If Frey's book can be used as a message and beacon to others who are suffering from drug abuse, loneliness, or a sense of failure, then does it really matter if the color of his prison jumpsuit is accurate? Besides, in his mind, based on all the drugs he used, he might really believe this was the way it all happened (three hours in a jail cell can easily seem like three days when you have no sense of time). If he was as drugged out as he claims, then he's left brain cells all over the country. And the mere fact that he can put together a few coherent sentences is quite a feat.

Was it wrong to lie? Sure. Did he lie? No idea. Is it his memoir as he remembers it? Probably. In life, if you tell a lie long enough, it becomes your truth. Whether these things actually happened to him or not, perhaps he really believes that they did. Drugs will do that to you. So will despair, loneliness, and a feeling of needing to belong.

So let the man alone. And remember - you have the option of NOT reading his book.


  1. That's the deal with creative non-fiction.... it's creative (read:embellished).

  2. I heart that book BIG TIME, couldn't put it down. And I take it not so much as a verbatim truth-telling but a wonderful insight on the power of human determination and survival. Besides, even if it isn't true it's still one helluva good read!!!!

  3. Interesting thought on NPR this morning about the whole controversy: ultimately it's not Frey or the readers who suffer most for the untruths and embellishments included in the "memoir," it's the entire memoir genre. From here on, anyone reading any other memoir will be left to wonder just how truthful the author is being with us regarding his/her life story.

  4. I don't necessarily think it is the fault of this one author as much as it is the fault of our tabloid nation. Sensationalism TV, stories on celebrities, government corruption exposed, a hounding media. The American public just LOVES to see failure, which is why Frey's book was popular. And now that we know he's just an average guy who embellished a little, we want our money back so we can spend it on the next tell-all book.