(Posted 11:16 PM PST, January 27, 2006)
Sorry, but yes, I too have to weigh in on the train wreck that is
currently James Frey's life, and not so much with a smug tsk-tsk, or
the less sophisticated albeit more (at least, for me) characteristic
nananana-booboo, but with a Jon Stewart-like: "Dude…like…what were
Excuse me for being flummoxed, but I
cannot fathom squandering (as Oprah put it, and I'm paraphrasing here,
but I'll try my best to keep the Freyisms to a minimum) the blessing of
millions of readers. That's a gift!
So, what gives?
I'm guessing it had to do with a publishing contract. Am I right?
it: Let's just assume that you had a pretty good novel that was shown
all around to the powers that be…and it got rejected.
You might have even gotten some feedback like: "Love it! But–well, too bad it's not a memoir, 'cause memoirs are really hot right now…"
(I just love that phrase…sort of like: "Paranormal chick lit is really hot right now…" or "Political Middle Eastern sci-fi is really hot right now…")
Potato, potahtoh. Square hole, round peg. bank account, empty. Publish, perish….
You get the drift.
So you change a few words pronouns (he to I, him to me), and…voila! Your novel is now a memoir–which goes to different editors, maybe even at the same publishing houses…
Only your agent knows for sure….And, uh, oh by the way, where was
li'l Jimmy Frey's agent during this transition period anyway, huh? Huh?)
No matter. Everyone's laughing all the way to the bank.
of course now the whole publishing industry is making noises about
following through on the changes Oprah suggested. Hire fact checkers?
Sure! No prob…Hey, uh, here's a thought: why not use the same people
the New York Times had keeping tabs on Jayson Blair?
Sorry, me bad. In truth, we have to cut the Times a little slack. After all, it was the Times'
Janet Maslin who, all the way back in 2003, pointed out in her book
review of A Million Little Pieces that Frey had first tried to sell it
Hel-lo, Harpo? Anyone there in the fact checking department?
I love writing fiction because it truly is stranger than reality. And
even if some of the plots we read are seem real, or are "based on a
true story" (I just love a good oxymoron, don't you?) only the writer
knows where the truth ends and fiction begins, so you might as well say
you made up the whole darn thing anyway, right?
So, um, Oprah,
about that next Book Club pick: how about a chick lit book? Say–and
I'm spit-ballin' here–a Hollywood parable…
Yeah, okay, I realize that it's not paranormal chick lit…Then again, it already has the word "Lies"in the title…
And won't your audience find fictionalized lies not presented as truth somewhat refreshing?
Just think about it, is all I'm saying….