Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on "Memoirs"

This morning from the NY Times:

When a Memoir and Facts Collide

By EDWARD WYATT



And on the second day, Doubleday shrugged.


Two days after an investigative report published online presented strong evidence that significant portions of James Frey's best-selling memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," were made up, the book's publisher issued a statement saying that, in essence, it did not really matter.


"Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence," said a statement issued by Doubleday and Anchor Books, the divisions of Random House Inc. that published the book in hardcover and paperback, respectively. "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.


"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."


As far as the charges, which were made by the Smoking Gun Web site, "This is not a matter that we deem necessary for us to investigate," said Alison Rich, a spokeswoman for Doubleday and Anchor Books.


Doubleday's response underscores the gap that has emerged between book publishing and the rest of the media, which in recent years have been under increasing scrutiny over the accuracy of their reporting. Other high-profile media outlets have been criticized for reports whose truth was later questioned, including Stephen Glass's fabrications at The New Republic, Jayson Blair's reporting for The New York Times and CBS News's reporting on President Bush's National Guard record.


According to police reports and other public documents unearthed by The Smoking Gun, as well as interviews the site conducted with people who encountered Mr. Frey during the events he describes in his book, much of his story is fiction. Though Mr. Frey in "A Million Little Pieces" and the follow-up memoir, "My Friend Leonard," paints himself as having committed numerous felonies and as having spent three months in jail after leaving rehab, The Smoking Gun said Mr. Frey himself acknowledged that those things were not true.

read the rest here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/11/books/11memo.html

This afternoon from the N Times::

Random House will refund readers who bought James Frey's drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces" directly from the publisher, a move believed to be unprecedented, after the author was accused of exaggerating his story.


Readers calling Random House's customer service line to complain on Wednesday were told that if the book was bought directly from the publisher it could be returned for a full refund. Those who bought the book at a bookstore were told to try to return it to the store where it was bought.


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Ed here: Here's a letter I got last night which you may or may not have seen. I'm not sure I agree with every single point but it's coherent and well-written and interesting.

Ron Franscell said...

From author/blogger Ron Franscell at http://underthenews.blogspot.com ...

American literature -- considered an oxymoron in the rest of the world -- has gone downhill fast since New York surrendered America's storytelling standards to Hollywood, where illusion -- EVEN IN TRUE STORIES -- is exactly the point. Today, the "perfect" story is determined by its film-worthiness more than its literary quality. In the name of creating Californicated literature, New York editors have blurred the line until even they don't know what's true. "It's a good story," they'll say, "so who cares if it's an utter and ballsy lie?"

I care. Capote admitted on the bookjacket that "In Cold Blood" was fictionalized in some part. Coleridge's definition of fiction was "the willing suspension of disbelief." What if it's not willing? That's the difference between making love and rape, albeit without either the exhilaration or violence. If you thought you were reading a true story, you were conned. What if we found out next week that the famous Zapruder film was, in fact, a Hollywood dramatization passed off as a real eyewitness home-movie and, oh, isn't it funny how we fooled you??

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