Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

James Frey (1 Viewer)

Stacy

Senior Member
I was a little unsure if this belongs here in Debate or in one of the books and authors forums, but if a mod feels like moving this, that's fine.

I was just wondering what everyone thinks of the recent scandal over James Frey. For anyone who might be unaware of the situation, James Frey is the author of two memoirs, A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. Recently, a website revealed many of the incidents in A Million Little Pieces, which focuses on Frey's stay in rehab as a 23-year-old, as being ficticious. Frey admits to exagerrating the incidents of his past, but claims that his book is memoir, not fiction, and that it contains the emotional truth.

Is this an unpardonable sin for a writer?

Or does the good Frey has done in helping other drug addicts outweigh the bad?

Or perhaps the distinction between perception and fiction might be blurrier than one might expect?
 

Spudley

Senior Member
[ot]I moved the topic, as you suggested, to the Books & Authors section; I think that is probably the best place for it. It's a good topic for discussion, though. :)[/ot]
 

ReikiMeg

Senior Member
Frey

I believe that it shouldn't be called a memoir. It should be labelled fiction and/or "based on a true story," because he didn't just change names, he made large changes to the actual story. For instance, he admitted he added people to the fight scene to make himself look more big and bad. He also didn't stay in jail for 78 days, he was there for only a week, which IMO changes the whole part about him racing to the woman who committed suicide. He actually roamed around Ohio before going to see her.

I feel sorry for anyone who looks to this memoir as inspiration for their own problems, because...I won't say it's all based on lies, but too much of it is. It makes me doubt his entire story. He couldn't even give a definite yes that the teeth situation occured.

However, I think a good deal of blame should also rest with the publisher. On Oprah, the woman who was in charge of overseeing his book said their fact checking never surpassed an interview with the writer. Of course a writer is going to lie to cover up his other lies. The publisher should have checked his story. Even though it was based on his memories, there are things they could have checked(obviously, because Smoking Gun did a good job at it).

Anyway, that's my two cents.
 

krazyklassykat

Senior Member
I hadn't read the books, but was planning to, and I am extremely disappointed in Frey's folly. I don't think it is "an unpardonable sin" but I certainly think it was foolish of Frey to embellish his "memoirs." I believe I may have an idea of his motive for fabricating some events and still calling it a memoir.
One has to admit that, in this day and age, many people are losing hope -- whether it be a battle with drug addiction or with life itself. One thing I fantasize about as a writer is publishing a book that will make a difference in someone's life. I'm not necessarily talking a Nobel Peace Prize here, but a book that will inspire that vainly sought-for hope that so many people need. I believe that Frey wanted the same thing. Now, I've heard some people say that Frey probably portrayed himself as the larger-than-life, bleeding heart character, and wrote a roller-coaster read just so he could get it published. But if you think about it, if Frey had just written the book as a novel, it would still have been published. BUT, it might not have been regarded as the source of inspiration and comfort that it (for some time) was. Too many people will not take the inspiration they can get from a fictional story. Too many people (who are not writers, that understand the beauty of imagination!!!!!) would not have looked twice at that book if it was published as a novel. James Frey made a terrible mistake in bargaining quality for truth. He should have known this would happen. I don't entirely blame him, for I think his intentions were noble, and ReikiMeg brough up a good point about the publishers; if you're going to let someone publish a book as a memoir, it goes without saying that you should check the facts or tell them to write a novel.
The fact is, the price of lying totally outweighs the wonderment people had in saying "Wow, this really happened."
Then again, as Frey should have known, and as many writers understand... the truth is overrated anyway.
 
R

Rivettovski

All I can say is that Frey's lies put addicts and alcoholics in recovery to shame. He could have put the book in fiction and saved himself the trouble.
 

Stacy

Senior Member
He didn't lie about being a recovered (recovering?) drug addict and alcoholic though. No one has even questioned his addiction or his recovery. It's all the details that are out of proportion in A Million Little Pieces.
 

perkonet

Member
I think as the publisher of A Million Little Pieces pointed out, a memoir is different from an autobiography. But at the same time, the person who picks it up to read it, is expecting the truth, and James Frey stretched it way to far. Did you see him on Oprah? She really blasted him. I guess that's what happens when you stretch things too far. Retribution, right?

I actually read an excerpt of the book, and chose not to read it, b/c it didn't sound like real events to me. I thought he had probably had stretched the truth quite a bit, and I think that brings us to another point - being skeptical of what you read. I think there's so much credibility lost in journalism and publishing today, that writers really have a responsibility to tell the truth. Otherwise, what's the point?

And does anyone ever believe an autiobiography or a memoir? Not that the author even intentionally means to the alter the truth, but does anyone see themelves clearly? And when we sit down to write the events of our life, are we going to tell things as they happened, or is there a compulsion to write about the life we wish we'd lived. I've only read a few autobiographies in my life, and they mostly seemed a little fishy to me. I think the best one is Micheal J. Fox's autobiography, it is a very worthwhile read.
 

Talia_Brie

Senior Member
Rivettovski said:
All I can say is that Frey's lies put addicts and alcoholics in recovery to shame. He could have put the book in fiction and saved himself the trouble.

He couldn't sell it as fiction. That's the problem.

To me this is a real problem. While Frey claims that a Memoir is not necessarily a biography, in common usage there is little real difference. I think a reader is able to expect a certain level of authenticity that is not evident in Frey's two books.

Frey's work is fiction based on actual events. It wasn't marketable as that, so he's lied to everyone involved in order to get it published. This is just in-excusable.
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
All autobiography is fiction; all fiction is autobiography.

I don't remember who said that, but it's true. He's not the first to exaggerate or change facts for self-aggrandisement.

Bottom line - writer sells a lot of books. That's a good thing. Oprah looks stupid. That's not a bad thing.

Nobody's lost out anything here, except Frey's reputation is now a little frayed and Oprah gets to run around in a fit of moral indignation.

His current book is still selling. I bet his next book hits the best seller lists too. Good luck to him.
 
M

mN.sparroW

James Frey was the brother of a teacher at my school in Minnesota.
 

Drzava

Senior Member
Drug addicts and alcoholics are just liars and filth, this is why they don't get hired anywhere, and Frey epitomizes it! :eek:
 

Talia_Brie

Senior Member
Mike C said:
Nobody's lost out anything here, except Frey's reputation is now a little frayed and Oprah gets to run around in a fit of moral indignation.

Except all the people who went out and paid $25 for his book expecting one thing, and getting something completely different.

:-k
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
Not so. They paid $25 for a good read; they got one. If it had been badly written, that would have been a different issue.

Anyone who reads an autobiography and expects it to be the unvarnished truth has to be a little naive, don't you think?
 

Stewart

Senior Member
The book that comes to mind, whilst reading this, is Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark; in this a society gathers to write their autobiographies which are then embellished and, in a sense, stolen.
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
Connor, you are so widely read you must either be 103 years old, or work in a library on quality control!
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
Drzava said:
Drug addicts and alcoholics are just liars and filth, this is why they don't get hired anywhere, and Frey epitomizes it! :eek:

Oh dear. Another blanket condemnation, D?
 

Stewart

Senior Member
Mike C said:
Connor, you are so widely read you must either be 103 years old, or work in a library on quality control!

Neither, sadly. Well, perhaps not the 103 years anyway.

I just made the choice a couple of years ago to immerse myself in as varied a diet of fiction as possible. And I read quite a bit. Luckily, the majority of contemporary novels fall into the 150 to 300 page bracket so I can get through a lot more than, say, a fantasy reader who has 800 pages to contend with (never mind the other 1,600 pages of the same story!). Longest I've read this year, at about 630 pages, was A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving.

I need to read more classics; I'm shockingly deficient there.

Thanks for the compliment; I appreciate it.
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
Tis true, Connor.

My advice when pointing people at the classics is to start with Voltaire's Candide. It's a good read, short, and not heavy. And so totally relevant as a satire that it could have been written last week.
 

Talia_Brie

Senior Member
Mike C said:
Not so. They paid $25 for a good read; they got one. If it had been badly written, that would have been a different issue.

Anyone who reads an autobiography and expects it to be the unvarnished truth has to be a little naive, don't you think?

I disagree. I think the book was clearly marketed as a depiction of real events. Unvarnished truth is one thing, but 90% fabrication is another.

The issue is that Frey originally marketed the book as fiction, but no publisher would accept it. Then, without changing any of the content, he called it a memoir, and away we go.

It's dishonest. That may seem trivial, but if a writer can't be honest with the reader, honest with themselves, then there's somethign terribly wrong.
 

Walkio

Senior Member
I just finished it today, and I have to agree that Frey has certainly made it sound like it is a work of truth. Apparently it is not. But I am hardly surprised, like Mike pointed out, most autobiography does exaggerate the truth.

Did any body not find the lack of speech marks annoying? It was like a really long poem. I'm erming and ahing about this. It was quite different than most.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top