1.11.2006

James Frey, dogpile!!!

Smoking Gun Editor William Bastone told Reuters, "In off-the-record interviews with us, Frey admitted embellishing facts in the book for dramatic impact."

Frey has since threatened to sue The Smoking Gun.


For what? Saying "you're not a criminal"??
Saying "You're not the bad man you said you were"?

Looks like I'll have to sue my mom for calling me "honeypie" when she KNOWS I'm a snarkly beast.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

I'm not one to defend the reprehensible fraud Frey ... however:

Off-the-record means off-the-record. In my journalist career, I heard many, many off-the-record comments ... comments that I never shared with so much as my better half/sweetie-pie/honey, even when he begged me.

I'll bet TSG won't rope any more victims with their sweet dulcet tones singing, "It's off-the-record." You blow that trust once, you won't be trusted by anyone else. And think what future stories you blow by getting the big head and bragging when you don't have permission.

Existential Man said...

A Million Little Lies--Extended Commentary

I'm watching the interview now, as I post. This guy--with his underbite, whiny voice and inability to understand, admit, or accept responsibility for what he has done--is just pathetic.

He is defensive and presents himself as not very bright in how he expresses himself, continually repeating the value of his story to alcoholics and ignoring the reality of the difference between slight exaggeration and total fabrication. Despite continual prompts by King, he refused to acknowledge that what he did is in any way a problem for his readers. Instead, he repeated three times how exaggeration is common in all memoirs.

This man is a sociopathic liar. NOTHING he says can be believed. Like most addicts, he has survived by his lying. Truth and fiction become blurred--whatever serves his purposes in the moment is all that matters.

His mother was shown reacting hysterically on the Oprah show and inappropriately smiling on the King show--she also glibly pushed aside the whole issue of fabrication and focused on the value of his book as an inspiration to people. She is delighted to be on television rather than focus on why she was invited..

She is obviously happy her son has hit it big instead of being in prison or dead because of his addiction. "I stand by the essential truth of my book." This is just bullshit and total avoidance of the issue...it is stone-walling--just saying the same thing over and over again in hopes of distracting people from the issue.

Twice King asked if he might return to drugs because of what he is now dealing with...neither he nor his mother believe he will relapse. But don't bet on it, especially if he is abandoned by his new publisher and there is an outcry by his readers in finding out what he had done.

Now, really, what do we expect of a man who has survived his whole adult life by his lying? Do we expect him to understand the nuances of fiction versus non-fiction? Of "embellishment" versus outright gross lying and total fabrication for the benefit of dramatic impact and higher sales? His whole life is a lie--why would his book be anything different? It wouldn't.

This guy knows very little about publishing.. now Oprah comes on the phone and also focuses on the "value" of the book and blames the publisher--not the author--she also seems unable to clearly understand the seriousness of fabrication...even Oprah, with her big soft heart, avoids feeling like a duped fool.

Look, the truth it that addiction books have been around for a long time--this book was not needed...who cares about another addicts story? These books are a dime a dozen...

Oprah does seem to understand the larger question of "What does this mean for the larger publishing world?" but she is defending herself and her being duped by expressing that it is "much ado about nothing."

And why is this? Why does HOW the story is delivered not matter, as long as it has impact, as long as it reaches others in trouble and "saves lives"?

I suggest the answer is that, when we are living in a reality TV world, where scripts are written to make it look like everything is happening unscripted, we no longer care so much about what is "real" and what is fabricated....the line between truth and fiction is continually being tested, and this guy has just decided to use his highly-developed skills at lying...he is following the lead of New York Times reporters who fabricate incredible news stories to enhance their reputation, just as serious scientists working on stem cell research fabricate their results to become world renown...we all know, it is all around us in every shape and form...step right up and see how far out you can go--as long as you entertain us, we don't care how you do it...

If the reality TV culture with its in-your face-tell-it-like-it-is-realilty-is stranger-than-fiction mentality is what we want, there will always be sociopaths like Frey who are happy to accomodate.

What about the publishing world? Do they, as Miss Snark says, all end up looking like stupid fools for not fact-checking? The truth, I think, is even worse: Publishers are goddamn happy that this guy's story sold over 2 million books...They made their $50K advance back over and over again...THAT is all they care about--not whether he "embellished" his account...the book was a success, which is their goal...fiction? non-fiction? who cares? give me a book that will earn us a fortune, thank you very much!

Miss Snark said "everyone" KNEW this book was fabricated but nobody cared to make an issue of it...because publishers don't care about ethics, as long as they aren't sued...even then, they have high-priced lawyers to fight suits and are willing to do so, as long as they can sell 2 million books.

Will even more curious people run out to buy this book to see what all the fuss is about? It sure is possible...you know what they say: it doesn't matter whther you are getting good press or bad press as long as you are getting it....you think the publisher hasn't figured that out?

You don't like that this is what publishing has come to? That as long as they sell books they are happy? Believe me, the publisher is calculating how many more paperbacks need to be printed to meet the new demand--not how they are going to sensitively express regret at publishing this book.

Welcome to an edgy and chaotic post-modern world, where anything goes, values are relative, and entertainment under any guise is acceptable-- as long as it keeps our attention for more than 3 days, makes us a pile of money, and puts us at the top of the best-seller list.

Anonymous said...

That's about the only time Larry King perked up. "Off the record? They asked you off the record?"

I know it's probably too much to ask Larry to read the actual book before the interview, but couldn't he at least have read the Smoking Gun article (in which they admit the comment was off the record)?

Christine said...

God, he could have avoided all this if he'd just called the book 'fiction based on real events'.

It would still be the same book, and nobody would give a crap.

A.R.Yngve said...

Well, you know the saying:

"All writers are liars."

So why act shocked, people? "Good God, that writer, he... he LIED!"

Of course we lie. And you LOVE it.
;-)

Anonymous said...

I wondered about that aspect, too. This is how TSG justify it in the article:

On Saturday evening, Frey published on his web site an e-mail we sent him earlier in the day requesting a final interview. That TSG letter also detailed many topics we discussed with him in our first two interviews, both of which were off the record. We consider this preemptive strike on Frey's part as a waiver of confidentiality and, as such, this story will include some of his remarks during those sessions, which totaled about 90 minutes.

Not sure I'm convinced.

lady t said...

Every thing Existential Man said is right-I watched that BS Fest,too and
Frey is such a whiner"It was only a little part of the book"which says what,that it's OK to lie about your
life as long it's only a certain amount?!

Frey seemed on autopilot,he kept repeating stuff like"It's only 18 pages of a 432 page book" and"It's about alcoholism and drug addiction"-no,really? I thought it was about knitting!

Of course,the big dramatic moment was when the Great and Powerful Oprah called in to cover her ass and blame the publisher-Larry acted like God Almighty just buzzed in.*sigh*

Oh,well-atleast we can get a good laugh out of this(and hopefully,some better books)

Bernita said...

Excuse me?
Once Frey publishes the "off-the-record" material - which he apparently did - it is no longer off the record.

Anonymous said...

well, put, existential man. Or, as that nifty guy, Pontius Pilate phrased it: "What is truth?"

existential woman

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

amen, existential man!

and don't forget the way news is being stripped of reality - i'm thinking of the swift boat veterans press conference spectacle and the special session republicans had to protest filibustering that was staged by fox news.

i wish someone with a little more bite interviewed J.F., someone who could point out that, while he only fabricated 20 or so pages (this seemed to be J.F.'s defense, though he wouldn't admit any responsibility), those 20 pages are basically the plot and the other characters. the rest of it reads like a drunkologue. memoirists may conflate events to help a story's flow and misremember things - in fact, the subjectivity of memory is an interesting topic some of them explore - but does J.F. remember being in jail for three months and meeting all the fake characters? and would anyone buy a book about a drug addict who runs his right tire slightly up onto a curb?

for a funny, pre-scandal review, check out
http://exile.ru/167/167101802.html

That Girl Who Writes Stuff said...

Did Frey really believe that he COULD go off the record with The Smoking Gun? This is a site that claims to bring “you exclusive documents--cool, confidential, quirky--that can't be found elsewhere on the Web”.

They uncover liars. It’s what they do.

And speaking of lies I can’t believe Frey’s logic.

He seems to think his few pages of lies should not carry any weight because his book is long.

That’s nuts.

And King should have called him on it.

Jamieford said...

Well, I guess he can kiss his movie options goodbye.

Anonymous said...

The Larry King interview was a total softball love-fest. No wonder Larry gets all the big "gets." If Larry King or any of his producers would have bothered to do any research, including at least skimming the book, or reading some of the blogs about Frey out there they would have know that the 5% or so of the book that is in dispute is just about the only part of it that can be fact-checked. The other 95% is about his time at the rehab clinic, which is all confidential information, and all the characters in his book have basically disappeared--either died or gone to prison.

If I were Frey, and my "essential" story was true, other than a few "embellishments," I would have given Larry King's producers some facts to work with--names, gravesites, love letters from Lily, something to prove that I was not a total liar.

Writing the book and marketing it as non-fiction was bad enough. Spending years promoting it through the continued lies is just inconceibable for a person of conscience. Frey has fallen into the Hollywood trap--believing he is the character of his own creation.

Xavier said...

cynthia, re: "off the record", this is from the smoking gun piece...

"On Saturday evening, Frey published on his web site an e-mail we sent him earlier in the day requesting a final interview. That TSG letter also detailed many topics we discussed with him in our first two interviews, both of which were off the record. We consider this preemptive strike on Frey's part as a waiver of confidentiality and, as such, this story will include some of his remarks during those sessions, which totaled about 90 minutes."

Anonymous said...

Downtown Lit. Agent here - Did Karl Rove coach Frey in his appearance on Larry King last night? The guy smacked of so much media coaching and prerehearsed soundbites that I think even Larry was shocked. The whole thing seemed completely stage-managed, down to Oprah's redeeming phone call at the very last minute.

So despite my dismay at Frey, I do agree with Oprah that publishers have to look deep into their hearts on this one, for they are deeply complicit. The memoir craze was fueled by the need to get authors on tv and radio - so much easier if one is the subject of one's memoir and not just another unknown novelist. Frey's work - as a "novel" would have merely been another of the thousands of works of first fiction, routinely ignored by the press.

Audiate said...

I didn't see the Larry King interview -- personally I don't think JF deserves my viewing time!
But I'm curious to know what everyone thinks of this quote from Publishers Weekly:
"Robert Gottlieb, of Trident Media Group, said he thought this event is something of "an anomaly" and that, in spite of it, publishers still need to rely on "the truthfulness of an author" as opposed to teams of fact-checkers."

um, so like, what are the fact checkers for?