Perhaps nobody’s still interested in this topic, but the James Frey “A Million Little Pieces” brouhaha is still on heavy rotation at our household. Lucy refuses to shut up about it.
Actually, I’m having a change of heart when it comes to this guy. After seeing him on “Larry King Live,” he strikes me as the worst sort of dissembler. Let me give a somewhat unrelated example. After invading Iraq, imagine Bush saying this: “Because of September 11, one Arab country was going to go down, and Iraq has pissed us off for forever, so we fucking went in there and did our thing. We had to cook up evidence or else you wouldn’t have let us do what we know is right.”
Yes, it would have been horrifying in its own gruesome, Orwellian way – but I might have an inkling of grudging respect. I would disagree with him on every aspect of his plan, but at least I’d know the plan.
That hasn’t happened, of course – it’s lie after white lie after deception after disinformation after “we create our own reality,” and you’re left with a man whose war has gone to shit and whose ratings will never see even fifty percent unless he delivers Bin Laden bound and gagged to Congress.
Much the same could be said of James Frey. Look, dude, your ship has sailed: the Smoking Gun did so thorough a job debunking everything you wrote that you need to just say, “yep, there’s some factual things in there, but it’s mostly fiction, and should be read that way. Sorry for the confusion, but my publisher said it wouldn’t sell as a novel, and so here we are.”
Instead, he (and his lawyers and the publishers) has tried to redefine what a “memoir” is – you know, “remembering things to the best of your knowledge” – and thus cheapening every memoir ever written. As Tessa said, he has to be a full-scale schizophrenic to be remembering things that didn’t happen to the best of his knowledge.
Worse yet, his book acts as an open repudiation to the “12 Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous, saying that he beat addiction without kowtowing to the AA bullshit. I’m no drunk, but I’m friends with and love many who are, and I know they owe their very sanity and existence to the steps of AA, despite how much fun is had at their expense.
It’s one thing to have a fictional character eschew something that can save lives, but to pretend to have a real character do it is fucking irresponsible. If Frey has a bone to pick with AA, then he should have the balls to take it on without hiding behind a pretend protagonist. Maybe he can bring his mommy with him like he did on Larry King.
I stand by my earlier conviction that he is probably a fantastic writer, and if we had no inkling of the backstory, “A Million Little Pieces” would still inspire, I guess. But now the cat has shredded the bag, it’s time for him to come clean, or at the very least, promote all future TV and movie deals as fiction.
You want to know why I came back to this rant? Because of something on his website – he said “let the haters hate.” Samuel Johnson said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel, and my civics teacher in 10th grade said that sarcasm was the last refuge of an empty mind.
I’d like to add one, if I might: calling someone a “hater” is the last refuge of the clueless, merciless shill of the 21st century. The epithet “playa hata” stops all debate in its tracks because you are no longer talking about the subject matter, you’re attacking the critic. When it happens in professional sports, the music industry, and now the high-falutin’ world of books, you know that honest discourse has come to an end.
I don’t hate Frey for his success – I know how hard it is to get anything published, and at some point in my life, I would have resorted to anything to achieve notoriety. But Jesus, I’m so sick of our peer group’s constant need to keep lying long after the truth is so painfully obvious. AA is a miracle for most, but they admit they can’t get one type of person sober: the man who is constitutionally unable to be honest with himself.