Tuesday, January 10, 2006

News Alert: 'A Million Little Pieces' called a fraud.

I don't often post anything other than book and movie reviews on my blog, but since this piece of news is doing the rounds on almost every newspaper this morning, I thought it was my duty to post it here.

It regards the very popular non-fiction memoir by James Frey, "A Million Little Pieces" - about his descent into hell after being addicted to alcohol and drugs for many years and how he managed to pull himself out of it. Oprah Winfrey picked it for her viewer's book club, prompting the sales of the book to touch over two million this year.

According to the Smoking Gun report, Frey, may have exaggerated some of the facts in his book, with inflated claims about his criminal record and about his involvement in an accident that killed two high school students. Also, as a lot of bloggers have been pointing out - As a publisher, it should be a bad sign when almost every character in Frey's book that could bear witness to the unusual goings-on in his life, has either committed suicide, been murdered, died of AIDS, been sentenced to life in prison, gone missing, landed in an institution for the criminally insane, or fell off a fishing boat never to be seen again. "

Apparently Frey originally intended to market the book as fiction, but later changed his mind when there were no takers--- something that should have set off alarm bells for a serious publisher. Indeed, according to people that have read the book, Frey's own accounts of his life were varied and inconsistent. As I count memoirs among my favorite genres to read, it does make me slightly uneasy about the liberties that authors take with bending the truth in order to make the book more marketable. Frey is not the only one to have accused of this in recent times - Augusten Burroughs, author of "Running with Scissors" has been taken to court over many of the claims he made in his bizarre memoir about the psychiatrist's family who adopted him.

I hate to think 'we've been had' by both, James Frey and Augusten Burroughs. Unfortunately, this is going to make me very skeptical about memoirs in the future.

Read the Washington Post report here
Read the CNN report here
Read the New York Times report here

For an interview with William Bastone, editor of TheSmokingGun.com, go here