Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

My "take" on James Frey and "A Million Little Pieces."

I consider this statement a cop-out of the highest proportions. I copy it from the New York Times today.

"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.

James Frey in his memoir says he has committed numerous felonies and spent three months in jail. This, he now admits is not true. This is like someone saying they have been through chemo even though they haven't. Yes, it is true that my experience is only mine, and no two reports of chemo will ever be alike. Someone else might breeze through this. Another might suffer ten times more than I, but each story matters because the person actually is going through the experience. They are not imagining the experience. They are experiencing it, and reporting how it is for them. It is their interpretation, but it is an interpretation of something that is happening, not something imagined or made-up. Could you read my journal and write a fictional account of the experience of chemo from it? Possibly. Could you write your response to my experience? Absolutely! Should you write and say because I have been through chemo that you have been through it too? Even despite the news reports this week on mirror neurons, I think this is a stretch I am not yet willing to accept.

We have categories. We have fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. If James Frey is writing fiction, it should be marketed as such, and not called a memoir because that is what is currently selling right now. At this point, it seems pretty generally acknowledged that the journals of Anais Nin were carefully constructed and edited accounts of her life, and not the spontaneous overflow she might have suggested, but, at least, they were her life.

We have a president who lies. Does that mean that lying is okay? No, it does not. It means we have a president that lies. We don't have to let that trickle down. Trickle down economics doesn't work. Trickle down lying is unethical. Lying is lying, and, I think, on this one, despite my recent "treatise" on grays, that this one does seem clear to me. There is a place for black and white. If you were not in jail for three months, then, don't say that you were, and call it a memoir. Write fiction, and, at this point, get the damn book out of the memoir category and into the fiction one where it belongs.

Admit a mistake was made and correct it. I remember when the book, "The Mutant Message Down Under" came out years ago. The author said she was not willing to reveal her sources, and so, the book went from a supposed true story to fiction. I still feel unclear where the "truth" is on that one, but I do think it is important to error on the side of calling it fiction when there is doubt. Jon Carroll wrote a good column on this at the time. He felt he had been "suckered" into believing it. The book would not have sold as well as it did, if it had been originally marketed as fiction, but people, I included, wanted to believe that a woman could be picked up off the street and taken on a "walk-about" by Australian aboriginals and survive just fine, even though she was traveling without her sunscreen in the desert sun.

I cannot imagine what three months in jail is like. I could never have imagined what two months of chemo has been like. I feel someone lying about an experience they have not had degrades the person who actually goes through the jail experience, and degrades my experience of chemo. It cannot be imagined. It is beyond that. So, that is the end of my tirade, or maybe not.

Perhaps I would like to say that no one can imagine what it is like to have no hair until they don't, and that this is not like shaving your head. This is different. My whole body is at rest right now. No hair grows. I feel like I am a planet without a spin. I look like someone going through chemo, and yet, sometimes, I don't feel like I am going through chemo. I don't know what anything means. I look alien to myself. I feel alien to myself. Some people treat me like an invalid. Sometimes I need that. Other times I don't. I am confused a good deal of the time. Who am I? I don't want to read of someone imagining what this is like, and saying it is true. I want to read someone who has personally been through it, and I will still know it is his or her experience and not mine. Yes, the Uncertainty Principle points out it is hard, if not impossible, to pin things down, and yet, each one of us knows in our heart when someone is lying to us. We feel the lie inside. We don't need publishing companies lying to us. Perhaps a boycott of Doubleday and Anchor books is in order until this little problem that they want to ignore is fixed. I will personally purchase no book from this company until I see them stand up with some ethics. I don't need to support the support of lies.

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