Thursday, January 12, 2006

A million little embellishments?

For those of you who read James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, what do you think of this?

Edited to add: Here's another point of view from slate.com... and from the Christian Science Monitor...

13 Comments:

Blogger Bearette24 said...

The "packed appearance at Barnes & Noble in Union Square" - I was there! Woo!

I guess I feel bad for him. I think he changed some things around to make his book more dramatic. Do I hate him for it, or feel let down? No. I still love the book.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

It's funny, though. I don't think there were quite 1200 people at the reading. Maybe he exaggerates everything?

8:44 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

I, too, loved the book. Would I have loved it without all the hype? Probably. Would I have bought it without the suggestion of Oprah? Probably not. I don't really care if he exaggerated the truth. It was a good book and if it can help people see the cruel reality of addiction then I think it is well worth the paper it is printed on.

So there.

roxanne

8:47 PM  
Blogger bdogg_mcgee said...

Yeah, I agree. I haven't read the book, but, you know, I think that most authors embellish or leave out certain things for more dramatic effect or to have the story flow a bit better.

After all, (and Liz, I think you can back me up on this,) Laura Ingalls Wilder actually lived in Wisconsin twice (the family moved back after their failed attempt of living in Indian Territory,) in Iowa before moving to Minnesota, and had a little brother who died in infancy. But she didn't include those facts in her books....granted, they were deemed "Historical Fiction," but they were based largely on her life.

And how do we know that Frey's editors didn't have anything to do with the embellishments? Their job is to make sure a book sells...

I don't know--it's late, I'm rambling, and I really can't have an opinion b/c I haven't read the book, but I think everyone should cut the guy some slack.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I feel bad for him, too. I think I still would have liked the book, but I don't know if I would have been as captivated knowing that it wasn't all true. Because that was part of it for me-- the "Oh my God! I can't believe this happened to a real, live person!"

And Bdogg- you're right about Laura Ingalls. And I'm sure not everything happened, word for word, exactly as she described it. But I still love her. ;-)

9:44 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Well . . . I know that everyone embellishes, but there's embellishing and then there's outright lying. Two things really bug me about this:

* That he took an actual, identifiable event that happened to other people and twisted it to make himself a victim. I'm referring to the train accident. In the book, he sets the accident 3-4 years earlier than it occurred and set himself up as a close friend of the girl and as the subject of a witch hunt after the accident. From what I can gather of the real events, TWO girls died in the accident, Frey had at most a passing familiarity with one of the girls, and there wasn't any inquisition after the accident.

To me, that's taking advantage of someone else's tragedy. I wouldn't have a problem if he wanted to fictionalize (is that a word) the event and call it fiction. But I do have a problem with him presenting an obviously distorted version as fact to profit from it.

* That he played on the emotions of people in vulnerable situations. He presented himself as this great model of recovery and spoke to people currently trying to recovery from addictions. These people thought of him as a hero. At that point, he crossed line from "dramatizing" his life for the purposes of a book to being nothing more than a snake-oil salesman.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

But it is true that he went through rehab and overcame a number of horrendous addictions.

And, as Oprah says, the embellishments count for only 5% of the book.

As for the accident...I really think there are 2 sides to every story. He could very well have been friends with one of the girls and her parents might not have known it. Parents can know really little about what's going on in their teenagers' lives. And when somebody asked, "Would there be a record of interrogating someone like Frey?" the cop just said, "Usually." There's always bureaucratic sloppiness.

Also, that article linked to this entry...in the beginning they say he was never in jail, and later they say, "When he was in jail, there were 3 security cameras, not 7." This seems contradictory to me. And the security camera thing is really nitpicky.

I just hesitate to judge him because memory, records, parental knowledge, etc. are imperfect. And the people who are going after him seem kind of nasty. They dismiss Lily as "another of James Frey's People Who Died."

2:34 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I couldn't believe how long that report was! They really dug deep.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

It was so long, I couldn't sit there and read the whole thing. I figure, what's the point? You either enjoy the book and get something from it or not. What's the purpose of all the nitpicking? Do any of us like people to do that at our jobs? I know I certainly don't.

roxanne

10:30 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I agree, Roxanne. Everyone loves a good bust, especially of someone famous. It's like sharks smelling blood...

12:27 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

Ai. Now I'm wondering how much is made up. I disagree with the slate article on one point...I'd say Lilly was the love of his life at that point, not the arctic one. And now that he's married, it's probably his wife!

See, there are inaccuracies in everything.

I loved the pompous little note at the end - "Apologies, this was an abbreviation, not an acronym."

12:43 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I'm drawn to this quote in the CSM article:

"Others in the literary world have expressed outrage, including Mary Karr, whose memoir about her dysfunctional family, "The Liar's Club," has spawned many imitators. "My experience is there's no way you can manufacture events and find the truth," Ms. Karr says. "Great memoirs don't take bizarre experiences and make them more bizarre and outrageous. They take bizarre experiences and make them familiar. That's the power."

(article by Randy Dotinga in the Jan. 18, 2006 issue)

1:29 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

That's interesting. Although I did read her book and found it more bizarre than familiar!

It was funny, I was in a writing class once where we wrote short stories, and based one on high school experiences. Most of my other stories were wholly fictional, but this one was pretty autobiographical. One guy said, "It's really surreal; reminds me of David Lynch."

It's weird how truth really is stranger than fiction.

Now I am questioning the Frey books though...the CSM article talking about how rehab people can be all macho and exaggerate their criminal records...that does fit him to a T.

I wonder how this will affect sales of his next book - which is supposed to be unabashed fiction.

4:58 PM  

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