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Frey speaks, selectively

In case anyone missed it, James Frey has spoken in-depth to a reporter – Laura Barton, writing for The Guardian – for the first time since the massive controversy over his Oprah-anointed but exaggerated “memoir,” A Million Little Pieces. The interview makes for a longish and frustrating and not very rewarding piece, so we’ll save you some time by highlighting the most salient points.

1. All that media attention sure has made for a rough few months.

2. People on the street understand, though. “Most people just say they loved the books, or it helped them, or someone they knew.”

3. Doubleday surely must have known from the start that Pieces was a “manipulated manuscript.”

4. Frey was a cultural scapegoat. “People feel frustrated by a lot of distortions by politicians, by members of the media, by movie stars, by tabloid journalists, and it was like a sorta confluence of events that I happened to be in the middle of.”

5. The Smoking Gun, the website that broke the news of the book’s falsehoods, was just doing its job – but really, it’s kind of a sleazy job, innit? “Their job is to get people to come to their website, to look at what they do. I just never thought that I was that big a target.”

6. He did have an anesthesia-free root canal – or at least, that’s what’s “true to my memory.”

7. North Americans can’t grasp the nuances of the dance between fiction and non- because they’re simply unsophisticated. “I think it has in certain ways to do with being a young culture, with being a culture that has less of an artistic and literary canon than some of the older European cultures.”

8. The publishers and agents who disowned Frey during the controversy are still making lots of money from his work.

Actually, he may have a point with that last one.

A couple of points that are intriguingly not explored in the article are: (a) How has Frey spent the money he’s made? Has he given any of it away? And (b) If the book was always meant to be a kind of postmodern freeplay of fact and fiction, why did he repeatedly insist that every word was true until it was proven otherwise?

Anyway, lest we think that the Frey fiasco has soured the market on confessional memoirs, writer Choire Sicha sets us straight with a feature in The New York Observer. And the story looks at the interesting question of where the policies of Alcoholics Anonymous — to which many such memoirists belong — fit in. “Members of A.A. have been struggling with the significance of that second ‘A’ for more than half a century. Within the group, members openly discuss their alcoholism; outside the group, they refrain from discussing their membership. That’s the theory.”

Related links:
Click here for the James Frey interview
Click here for the New York Observer feature