As a bookish person, I have found myself interested in the spew of reaction, commentary, and analysis in the fallout of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces “memoir” being exposed as a rather fictional text. This isn’t the only memoirist exposed of late: there is JT Leroy, believed to be a former transvestite truck-stop prostitute/cum writer but really, in truth, turning out to be a woman writing under pseudonym.

If you want more background, you may wish to read this or that for context).

I enjoyed this editorial by the Salon’s book editor, as it levelled blame right back at not only the writer and publisher BUT also at Oprah & Co.:

“Oprah’s revenge”:

To be sure, Doubleday, at the very least, should have required Frey to include an editor’s note making clear that he had altered events and changed many characteristics of the women and men who populate his memoir. (Talese announced today that all future editions of Frey’s book will carry such a note.) But here’s a question: If Oprah can see now that outrageous events like his novocaine-free dental work were “red flags” that the publisher should have heeded, why didn’t she pause there, too, before choosing “A Million Little Pieces” for her club? Oprah did her best today to play wounded, claiming that she feels “duped,” and “conned” by James Frey. “The book is so fantastical,” Oprah told Talese. Then why did Oprah herself take it at face value and sell it to her acolytes?

Another slice of analysis: (From the Observer Uk, Tim Adams, Sunday January 29, 2006):

“From Dave Pelzer to the latest women’s magazine, the misery memoir is a surefire bestseller. But why are we so addicted to other people’s agony?

And, finally, what does this say about the way books, fiction or otherwise, are marketed and consumed?

An interesting analysis of recently exposed bogus memoirists — Rick Moody, A Public Space

When I blame the culture entire for this mess, what I blame the culture for is its phobia at the sweet labor of reading. I do it myself occasionally (to my shame and regret): make do with the sketchiest acquaintance with a book, as though I knew what was inside its covers. This won’t do. Reading requires a persistent, engaged, long-term relationship with a book. It requires passion and commitment and patience, that most unfashionable of contemporary virtues. Books that are slapdash and careless about these ideals of the reading experience, books that are made for the television market, or in order simply to be review-worthy, do not, in my view, have that much in common with the kinds of books that lie around for decades and contribute to history. But books that are anything less reek with the perfume of mendacity.

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