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A million PR nightmares

An article in today’s New York Times collects the responses, or lack thereof, to the allegations that James Frey falsified much of the content in his bestselling memoir A Million Little Pieces. The publishers of the hardcover and paperback editions of the book, Doubleday and Anchor Books, respectively, both divisions of Random House, issued a joint statement that downplayed the importance of truth in memoirs. “Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence,” it read. “By definition, it is highly personal. In the case of Mr. Frey, we decided A Million Little Pieces was his story, told in his own way, and he represented to us that his version of events was true to his recollections.” The statement continues: “Recent accusations against him notwithstanding, the power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story for millions of readers.”

But Edward Wyatt, the writer of the Times article, says that the statement’s lack of definitive comment on the objective truth of the memoir suggests that little to no fact-checking was done by the book’s publishers. None will be done after the fact of publication, either, according to Doubleday and Anchor spokesperson Alison Rich. “This is not a matter that we deem necessary for us to investigate,” she said.

Needless to say, many readers are miffed and many key figures in the book’s publication and popularization, including Frey’s agent Kassie Evashevski, his editor Sean McDonald, who signed Frey on for two more books with the Penguin imprint Riverhead Books, and the one who started all the hoopla, Oprah Winfrey, were unavailable for comment.

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Click here for the full story from The New York Times