Whoa. Wait a minute. Are you saying that a junkie and thief did something dishonest?No way.
My disgust with this whole foolish mess is not that James Frey lied; it's that no one in publishing caught him, and now that he is caught, no one seems to care. Doubleday is "standing behind their author" according to Publishers Lunch.
Consider this: James Frey would have lost his job at the New York Times if he'd written that story for them. The New Yorker would never have run it. Why? They check things. Fact checkers.
For those of you who don't know what fact checkers do, go watch Cameron Crowe's "based on a true story" movie ALMOST FAMOUS wherein the fact checker at Rolling Stone pulls a story when the band denies the events happened.
Consider this as well: The Smoking Gun web guys didn't start out to verify MLP. All they wanted was Frey's mugshot.
It's beyond stupid as a business practice to not verify facts. Contracts have clauses that authors can't libel someone, can't infringe copyright, and god forbid publish anything detrimental to the work in the contract, but "make it all up cause it sounds better" isn't mentioned.
So, you ask, what's the problem? People make up stuff all the time. To quote Ira Silverberg -- who's discovered the hard way this week -- "a good hoax can be fun".
And James Frey isn't solely blame for this. Why would he expect to get nailed for this stuff, when nobody asked for verification before 1. handing him $50K; 2. booking him on Oprah; or 3. READING THE MANUSCRIPT.
So, what's the problem? This kind of fast and loose with the facts makes us look like nitwits. And by "us" I mean every publishing professional working in the industry today. We ALL look like nitwits when some guy gets fifty thousand dollars for turning a novel into a memoir and NO ONE QUESTIONS ANY OF IT.
Here is the little dirty secret: we knew. Oh ya. We all knew. We didn't have the smoking gun (ha!) but we knew. And no one did anything. And in letting this slide by, we look like exactly what we are today: sleazy nitwits.
Robert Parker talks about people who know "how to act" in his Spenser novels. He means people who have a core sense of integrity, who believe in and value some immutable things.
It's probably a mark of naivete that I'm disappointed we failed to meet that standard. But I am.