I first read James Frey's A Million Little Pieces when first came out in 2003. I found the novel to be a fascinating (although slightly disturbing) read of his years as an addict and criminal who gets checked into a rehab clinic by his parents. So it was interesting to read what The Smoking Gun has discovered about the book. Apparently Frey fabricated entire parts of his "memoir" and embellished details of is criminal career. The allegations of falsehoods must be fairly serious because Frey's publisher, Random House, is offering refunds to those who bought the book directly from them. Talk about a career killer. If the publisher is refunding people copies, they must have some serious reason to believe there's more fiction than fact in the "memoir." And Frey's credibility as a writer was just flushed down the toilet. (For the record, Frey does a piss poor job refuting the allegations on his blog. (At this posting, the blog is no longer operational)
One thing I've learned about writing my own memoir is that it's highly personal. And when you're left to your own memory, some slight differences in how others recall certain events can and will differ.
For example, there is one scene in my book where I my dad and I go back to my apartment a few days after my first wife killed herself. In my memory we went back to pick up some clothes. When my dad was in the apartment gather a few things (I stayed in the car) he listened to the answering machine and retrieved a previously undiscovered message from my first wife. (A verbal suicide note, so to speak.)
When my dad read that scene over the holidays he recalled it a bit differently. He thought we went back for something other than clothes and recalled that my brother went into the apartment with him. Both of these facts could be true. My brother could have been with us and we may have gone back to the apartment for something other than clothes (though I can't think of anything else I would have needed at that time). However, my dad does remember going back to the apartment with me and remembers listening and being very shaken by the message on the answering machine and talking with me about it after he found it.
If people were simply saying they recalled an event in A Million Little Pieces differently then Frey, I would assume, like my dad and I, their recollection of the event differed. But once you fabricate an event in a memoir, it no longer becomes a memoir -- it's fiction. If Frey had to make up scenes in order to sell his book to publisher, that's unfortunate. He had tremendous literary talent. (One might say he had too much talent.) It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Whatever the outcome, Frey's credibility is shot. I doubt we'll see any more non-fiction books from him again.
On a happier note, is everyone else excited that there's finally a new episode of Lost on tonight? It's about time. I've been having severe Lost withdrawals. My addiction needs to be fed.
Maybe I should write a book chronicling my month-long withdrawal from Lost. I could say I was arrested for pirating copies of the second season, thrown out of the house by Marathon Girl for constantly watching reruns, and had to check myself into a rehab clinic specifically for those going through Lost withdrawal. The book might sell around 3.5 million copies and be picked by Oprah for her book club.
I think I'll start a first draft of the novel tonight-- right after the latest Lost episode, of course.