I can't help but be interested by this because I am a nonfiction writer-it's what my thesis is and what I feel like I write best. Fiction is hard, man. Actually, it's not. Coming up with ideas for fiction is what I find impossible. I find it a lot easier to write about personal experience. Hence, nonfiction.
I'm sure I've written about this before, so I will keep my opinions short. Frey is an idiot for thinking no one would check his "facts," especially when he reaped the benefits of an Oprah recommendation.
Oprah is a superficial blowhard. I have no respect for what she did to James Frey or to the publishing industry in general, all to save the "purity" of her empire. My dream would be to one day publish a great book, have her want to select it for her "club," and tell her to go scratch.
(And a note to the tools at AOL-if you are going to have a feature on the blogs that claim you can search previous entries just by entering a few words, you might want it to actually work. I put "James", "Frey" and "Oprah" into the search and was told nothing was found. I know I wrote about this before. I've used the search about ten times, and it never brings up anything.)
Here's the thing I have found about writing memoir: it's amazing at how often a detail that you swore happened one way actually turned out to be something completely different. It's impossible to remember everything exactly the way it happened. And it's not a big deal, as long as it's not a boldfaced lie.
Here's how not to do it:
1. You have to have root canal on four teeth after you've had the crap beaten out of you, but since you are a "drug addict" you "can't have Novocain." Not a problem! You say you just grasp the sides of the chair tightly, and the procedure passes quicker than you thought. What, you can't take a little severing of nerves?
2. You spend three hours in jail once but it felt like it was so much longer, so you say it was really 90 days.
So yeah, James Frey was an idiot, embellishing things that are impossible to believe (I've had root canals, drugged to the max, and it still hurt like instead of a drill it was a school of piranha eating through my gums) or easily disproved over something called the "Freedom of Information Act" (hmm, had Frey been a friend of George W. Bush . . .) but he is also a phenomenal writer. A Million Little Pieces was a great book, whether it was all true, all fake, or a healthy mix. It's a shame that the legacy of the book is tarnished by Oprah's ego. I'm wondering how many people who could have been helped by it are now struggling with addiction.
Usually, I don't really care about what others think of me, but I feel I must say here that I read A Million Little Pieces almost a full year before Oprah got her filthy mitts on it. I'd never read any book based solely upon her recommendation.
My thesis is a series of essays about my life mostly since my father died. I've written about places I have been to, people I've met and things that I've done. I have done my best to recall things accurately, but I'm sure that at some point, I've messed something up. Or I've attributed a quote to someone other than the person who said, or combined two people into one, etc.
I wrote about going to the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and watching in amazement at the thrill ride there that dangles you over the edge of the building, almost a thousand feet above the ground, and spins you around. I'm sure it would have been much more interesting to write that I actually rode it, and I'm sure that I could have convinced readers of it. But there are a lot of people who know me who would read it and say "I know you. There's NO WAY you go on that thing."
And then I am nothing but a fiction writer, which is not a bad thing, mind you, but if I claim to be writing nonfiction I just lost my credibility.
I'm not a published nonfiction writer. I hope to be some day, but even then I will wonder if I lost readers way back in 2006, thanks to Frey and Oprah. Go away. Please.