My thoughts were, in the beginning, that James Frey was making shit up. I didn't read his entire work of snart, because I sickened on the first few pages. I hated his sensationalist style of writing and his overdone--scorched stinking overbaked--scene setting, if it can be called that. The lies were in the lonnnnng details.
I read a lengthy excerpt of A Million Little Pieces and dismissed it as very poorly written and craftily, slunkily, designed to grab the reader's attention with "looka me, Ima bad boy and my life was in serious constant danger." As if being an alcoholic was a crime committed against his person instead of by his person, to his person.
People I know (some of them aspiring writers) first said, "Hey, I don't care if he fudged a scene or two, it was still a good read." I felt like jumping up and scoffing, simply because memoir should be a sacred genre, not a ruse for alcoholic commercialization. In my humble opinion.
I can't say why exactly, but I took a instinctive dislike to Frey. Does he care he deceived over a million readers? He's sold his million. Probably not. What should be done to him? I think Oprah has done the work for those of us who have a problem with writers who claim something as truth, and are paid handsomely for that truth, when it was so laced with fiction even the writer doesn't know where one left off and the other began.
There's that saying that truth is stranger than fiction. The subliminal message in this reads something like, written truth is much more interesting than fiction if it's sensational, widely read and can be televised or made into a movie. Stuff like the man with the secret ritual of swallowing Barbie doll heads, who then goes to ER complaining of a stomachache with unknown causes, only to have his psychotic behavior diagnosed via X-ray.
In Frey's case, the fiction was better than the truth. He should have just wrote a novel, said it was based on his recovery from alcohol addiction, or not, and called it good. He could have legitimized everything he wanted to say, yet he chose to masquerade truth.
Would he have sold as many books if he had said straight up he was writing fruth? I do not believe so. We, the American People, love graphic true stories, the nastier the better. Therein lies the memoir genre dilemma, because now all of the current surge of memoirists will be called into question. What about Jesus Land? The Glass Castle? And it's really going to tick me off if the hounds roust out Augusten Burroughs or Elie Wiesel as lying memoirists too. That would just be too much.