Getting the message out:
Yesterday on the Oprah Winfrey show, the entire hour
was devoted to the scandal surrounding James Frey's mendacious "memoir", A Million Little Pieces
. Frey was there, as was his publisher, Nan Talese. The first 30 minutes consisted of Oprah grilling Frey and Talese - both supremely unappealing characters. After each commercial break, there would be a minute consisting of short video clips of journalists commenting on the affair
- Stanley Crouch, Joel Stein (!), Maureen Dowd - all who said Frey screwed Oprah.
But then, who do we see after that? Flown in all the way to Chicago, was Richard Cohen, who had a few words to say about the publishing industry. And after him, who else shows up in the studio? Frank Rich.
Here is the exhange with Rich: (emp add)
Oprah: Joining us is Frank Rich, a New York Times columnist who recently wrote that James Frey reminds us that we live in an age of "truthiness." What do you mean by…explain that.
Frank Rich: Truthiness is a word, of course, that's been popularized by Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central.
Frank Rich: I mean we live in this word now where this is just sort of the tip of the iceberg, this memoir, where anyone can sort of put out something that sort of looks true, smells a little bit like truth but, in fact, is in some way fictionalized. You look at anything from Enron fooling people and creating this aura of a great business making huge profits when it was an empty shell, or people in the government telling us that mushroom clouds are going to come our way if we don't invade Iraq for months when it was on faulty and possibly suspect intelligence. Or even things we label "reality" in entertainment like reality television. It's cast. It's somewhat scripted. You see Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey as happy newlyweds. The reality show is over, they get divorced and split the profits.
That's worth more than a month of New York Times and Washington Post editorials. Oprah's audience is huge. Middle of the road. Where the votes are.
Interesting to see that Oprah had so many liberal commentators on that program.
ADDENDUM: What Frey did is unconscionable. I know people who have been in rehab, or are currently in it. Frey's book discourages people from seeking treatment. Frey says you can do it on your own. He also writes of a horrific root-canal procedure, done without Novocain supposedly because it would interfere with the rehab procedures/medication. (And on the show yesterday, Nan Talese said that she had also endured root-canal without Novocain - does anybody believe that??)
On the message board for the program
at Oprah.com, there are many, many people supportive of Frey - which is a disappointment. But there are those who disdain Frey. Here is a good post
of that type:
Reading all of these responses supoporting James Frey makes me sad and sickened. I have been sober for over six years. Everyday I wake up to a world that I have to be honest in or risk going back to the life I had before sobriety. This is not a choice, it is a mandatory requirement for me to stay sober. Here comes this bufoon with a book about his rehab that smelled like BS both times I tried to read it. The second time I tried to read it was due in part to my sweet sister hearing about it on Oprah and buying me a copy. I did not have the heart to tell her it was BS. Instead I tried to read it again...same feel of BS. Watching him telling people to "hold on" was one of the saddest moments I have ever seen. There is a high likelihood that James is not alcoholic but rather a sociopath who has found a way to profit off the experiences of people with real alcoholism or drug addiction. All of you people who are so supportive of James Frey need to realize something: His book could have been the cause of other addicts dying because they think "holding on" will work. That is what this is really about. LIFE AND DEATH ARE WHAT RECOVERY IS ABOUT AND WHEN YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT STRUGGLE A BS MESSAGE CAN MEAN DEATH. James is a liar and a sociopath and he does not deserve any support. I can give him forgiveness but I will need to do a fourth step to figure out what my truth is first. The steps are tools that help REAL alcoholics keep themselves in check. If James did the steps he would probably find that he is not alcoholic and would have a chance to find out why he has sociopath tendancies. In ending, enough with the supporting of this liar!
Also, a local DJ here in Los Angeles who also had a drug problem is furious with Frey, for the same reason, that it will mislead people who need to know the truth about themselves and how to get better.
Add my voice to those who are angry - supposedly he has given hope to thousands. For this recovering drunk of 20+ years, it is false hope. His "hold on" with the implied "you can do it on your own" is a death sentence to real alcoholics and drug addicts. They have already told themselves that many many times.
He had a chance to rehabilitate himself, do a big mea culpa, donate some of the proceeds of his mis-gotten gains to charity - he chose instead to say he made a mistake, that this difficult experience will make him stronger. Boo-fucking-hoo.
The founder of moderation management preached essentially the same message: "You can do it." She is now in jail for killing two people while she drove drunk. I wonder what will become of Mr. Frey.
I think some of this is pointing the finger at the wrong problem. I don't think there's ever been a memoir written that didn't include some level of embellishment and exaggeration. Pointing at the lies as if they were the problem isn't quite right... frankly, there is such a thing as literary license, even in "non-fiction".
The real issue is that Frey is niether a very happy nor a very healthy person, emotionally, something that becomes obvious when you hear him speak. His method might have gotten him off drugs, and good for him, but it didn't leave him in sound emotional health, which is a great reason not to follow in his footsteps.
Embellishment is not an issue for those reading this book as what it is: a memoir. It is an issue for anyone reading this book as a self-help book, but those people have obviously already rejected the other options. Blaming Frey for what is actually a failing of our social mores of mental health and our health care system isn't particularly helpful.
I absolutely love that Rich pulled the Iraq line, however, and I love even more that the far right hasn't been able to stir up much outrage over it.