Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Million Little Lies, courtesy of Oprah

I have watched with disgust and dismay the trickle of "serious" non-fiction books exposed as being fraud and fable. From Michael Belliside's ARMING AMERICA to Rigobera Menchu's I, RIGOBERTA MENCHU, the one thing you can count on when a "path-breaking" book exposed as fiction is that the disgraced book will have no trouble making its way into required reading lists at the university.

The latest bestseller to join this ignomious club is James Frey's A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, revealed by Smoking to be filled with both gross exagerations and outright falsehoods. Frey's best-seller, which recounts the author's "vomit-caked years as an alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal" bears the Oprah Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

I have nothing but disdain for Oprah's Koolaid-drinking cult, so this intersection of Frey's books with the rich cow's literary endeavors touches two of my nerves at the same time.

The word I'm looking for is shadenfreude.

Here's what Smoking Gun found out in their investigation of the book:

"...a six-week investigation by The Smoking Gun reveals that there may be a lot less to love about Frey's runaway hit, which has sold more than 3.5 million copies and, thanks to Winfrey, has sat atop The New York Times nonfiction paperback best seller list for the past 15 weeks.
Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey's book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw "wanted in three states."

It gets better:

"Frey also invented a role for himself in a deadly train accident that cost the lives of two female high school students. In what may be his book's most crass flight from reality, Frey remarkably appropriates and manipulates details of the incident so he can falsely portray himself as the tragedy's third victim."

I cannot help but wonder: why is some loser's "vomit-caked" descent into a hell of his own making worthy such money and accolades? Oprah's response was typically, well, Oprah:

"...Winfrey hailed Frey's graphic and coarse book as "like nothing you've ever read before. Everybody at Harpo is reading it. When we were staying up late at night reading it, we'd come in the next morning saying, 'What page are you on?'" In emotional filmed testimonials, employees of Winfrey's Harpo Productions lauded the book as revelatory, with some choking back tears. When the camera then returned to a damp-eyed Winfrey, she said, 'I'm crying 'cause these are all my Harpo family so, and we all loved the book so much.'"

I'm crying too, sweetheart. Crying for a country that has descended so far into self-loathing that it no longer sees pseudo-intellectual posturing masquerading as intelligent chat.

Frey has now hired a Hollywood attorney-to-the-stars to sue anyone who questions the accuracy of his "memoir."

Here's the clincher, from Smoking Gun:

"Frey's original manuscript was rejected by 17 publishers before being accepted by industry titan Nan Talese, who runs a respected boutique imprint at Doubleday (Talese reportedly paid Frey a $50,000 advance). According to a February 2003 New York Observer story by Joe Hagan, Frey originally tried to sell the book as a fictional work, but the Talese imprint 'declined to publish it as such.'"

Because she's a "black entrepreneur," Oprah avoids criticism, even from conservatives. Her magazine recently published a sympathetic portrayal of a Palestinian suicide bomber. This surprised many, though rich liberals usually make the jump Israel-bashing eventually.

She screamed racism when an upscale, posh, Paris boutique wouldn't stay open late just for her. She did not explain how a country that basks in liberal approval could be so explicitly bigoted. Perhaps she should councel her Hollywood friends not to threaten a move to France everytime an election doesn't go their way.

Although critics now question Frey's account of his jail time, the author doesn't hesitate to discuss the transformational nature of "doin' time." noted that

"during that last three-month stretch [Frey] knocked off "Don Quixote," "War and Peace," and "The Brothers Karamazov." He also sampled some Proust, but found it too boring. 'When you have literally hours and hours and hours a day to do nothing because you're locked in a cell, I found that the best way to pass time was to pick up books.'"

Oh, I don't know. Fabricating a memoir might be also an intersting and profitable way to make use of jail time.

Frey should expect an invitation to speak at an ALA convention soon.


At 7:51 PM, Blogger mdoneil said...

I'm reclassing it as fiction and taking it out of 921.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Paul Pennyfeather said...

Good for you! A little librarian revolt against the frauds, fakes, and phonies. There seem to be more of them around lately, but that's probably an illusion brought on by high-speed internet, blogs, and cable TV. Still, what really sticks in my throat is that pretentious cow, Oprah, is standing by her vomit-reeking man, even though he lied to her.

I wonder how she'd feel if her hubby starting using the same standards of truth that Frey used.

Good move, mdoneil.



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