James Frey and A Million Little Pieces

I usually don't like write about someone I disapprove of because I don't want to give them even more publicity, but in this case, I make an exception.

By now you must have heard of James Frey and the scandal surrounding his memoir, A Million Little Pieces. His best-seller was turned into a phenomenon (selling over 3.5 million copies, as one source said) after the book was picked by Oprah's Book Club. Now it's been revealed that at least parts of the book is fictionalized, and Frey himself has even admitted to it.

I find it appalling that a writer would go on national TV and blatantly lie and think there's nothing wrong with lying, passing what is fictional as truth. I also find it disappointing that Oprah continues to support and endorse Frey. I think she has done a disservice to writers, readers and everyone who has struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism.

My friend Lori said:

Whether or not you like Oprah is not really the issue. Her bookclub is a powerful marketing tool and, as an individual, she is a powerful, public persona. The fact that she continues to support a writer who has engaged in unethical behavior is disappointing and tarnishes her by association. If you agree, send a polite e-mail saying so and explaining why.

I think writers all over the world should write to Oprah and urge her to reconsider her support for Frey and his book. Oprah has tremendous influence and her support for something or someone unethical would only encourage other writers to do the same thing. I think if she gets hundreds or thousands or more letters from writers/readers around the world disapproving her endorsement of Frey, she might be willing to reconsider her position.

I sincerely urge that you email Oprah, and also tell all your friends and colleagues to do the same. Let's bring this up at the grassroot level and let Oprah know that unethical practice should not be tolerated, let alone endorsed.

Thank you,

~ Ray

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paintbrushpoet said…
Part of the alcohol and drug addiction disease is compulsive lying. This guy is still in his problem. I would be willing to bet Oprah is disappointed and trying to figure out how to handle this. For myself, ANY recognition of a disease that is killing people is a good thing.
Lori said…
So you want to enable him by saying since his unethical behavior put a spotlight on the problem, it is okay? And what about credibility for future writers trying to bring an issue into the public consciousness? Or about individuals who really did kick their drug or alcohol addiction? Isn't it demeaning to them to reward someone for bad behavior that they really did experience and overcome?

(Thanks, Ray, for posting that link here. )
Ray Wong said…
I agree with Lori -- there are a lot of books out there about drugs and alcohol, and now we're going to question their authenticity and credibility. That's what's at stake here, not whether it's a worthwhile topic. I mean, if someone writes a memoir about pedophilia and rape, and it turns out they are lies, does it make it a worthwhile read just because it's about those topics?

Frey might have told the "truth" about drug addiction and alcoholism, but he must admit to the fact that he was writing fiction. To pose as a non-fiction writer, he has done something unethical and like Lori said, we're reward EXACTLY the behavior (lying and cheating) that he writes against...
Dawno said…
If one makes material misrepresentations about one's qualifications for a job in their application or resume and because of these they are hired, they'll be fired if it's discovered. To me that's exactly what we have here - a material misrepresentation of fact that causes people to buy his book based on the 'trueness' of his experience. Anyone who is lied to feels misused. All the lies we have to deal with just make us all the more cynical and less willing to reach out to people who really can use our help.
It's taken me awhile to get around to reading all the blogs I frequent. When I came across this, I was apalled. It's difficult enough for writers to get published without someone passing off fiction as truth. I have three memoirs written, currently unpubublished, and here I was deciding whether to rewrite them as fiction so I didn't have to admit it was the truth. With what Frey has done, I don't doubt people will be skeptical of memoirs from this point on.

I don't believe that alcoholism and drug addiction is a "disease". I believe using is a choice which can become an addiction. To me, what Frey did here is use yet another "excuse" to line his pockets with deceit.

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