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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer


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More on the James Frey controversy

There's lots of good reading about this stuff right now on Google News. Frey is also appearing on Larry King tonight, and he will undoubtedly be asked about these allegations re his book.

The online writers groups and blogs I've checked out today are freaking out about this, as could be expected, although reactions are split between those who are grievously offended that he has reached such a level of success by passing the work off as non-fiction when it's actually not, and those who think the story stands on its own regardless of the underlying facts.

I'm on the fence between both of those views. As an aspiring fiction writer myself, I want to call foul for what appears to me to be a massive queue-jump to fame and success by writing a horrific [fictional] story which he passed off as true. Even if parts of the story are indeed true (and Christ, who knows which parts are?), I seriously doubt that the work would have garnered as much attention as it has (certainly not from Oprah, for chrissakes, whose last number of book picks have been dyed-in-the-wool classics by Faulkner, Garcia-Marquez, Tolstoy, and the like). Undeniably, the mass popular appeal for this book has been based, until a few days ago, on the premise that this shocking tale actually happened to him.

I also don't buy his defense that AMLPis simply his best recollection of events from his drug-addled mind. If that's the case, and if he knew ahead of time that certain key facts weren't necessarily true (and let's be honest, he could have undergone the very same fact-checking exercise that The Smoking Gun did to figure out exactly what did and didn't happen in Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere), then he should have made that clear through the means of a disclaimer (incidentally, there's apparently a disclaimer like that at the beginning of My Friend Leonard, the sequel to AMLP). In other words, I think that he should have just called it a work of fiction. One based on true life events, to be sure, and no less compelling a story as a result, but a work of fiction nevertheless.

Having said all of that, I still think the book is a great read and I think that Frey is a very good writer. However, his credibility may be ruined if this scandal reaches its possibly logical conclusion. I'm quite interested to see what Random House and Oprah end up doing in the next few weeks. Random House's early reaction is quite telling, though: they're offering a refund to anyone who purchased the book directly from them. (Correction: The Random House refund story was later refuted by the publisher as false.)

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(Anonymous) January 12th, 2006
I think it might be too late for Frey. After being on Larry King last night I think his credibility as an author may have already been ruined. I'm not sure why he hasn't just admitted that maybe some of the facts were - well, not...

-Marc

I still haven't read the book though. I've got two in front of it, heh.

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