Friday, January 27, 2006

Yeah, He's Sorry, So What?

I'm a huge fan of Richard Roeper's column, which appears in the Chicago Sun Times newspaper. It's the only column I read religiously, and usually I agree with his take on things. Unless it's sports. When he starts talking sports, I zone out.

Anyway, I was pleased to read his take on Oprah's handling of the James Frey It's-All-A-Bunch-Of-Lies fiasco. When The Smoking Gun first released its investigation results that revealed Frey for the fake that he is, my first thought was to agree with the on-line site that Oprah had been totally duped.

Even more frustrating, however, was knowing that this guy was making a killing on this book because of Oprah's endorsement. And that no matter what all of this turns up, sales of the novel cum memoir will only go up. You know what they say; good publicity or bad publicity, it's still publicity.

I, personally, plan to avoid this book like the plague. I will not buy a copy of it. I will not check it out of the library. I will not read a single word of it, nor will I go see the movie adaptation which you just know is somewhere in the process. I will do nothing at all that could conceivable put another penny in this guy Frey's pockets. He makes me nauseated. He's a liar and a fake.

Thing is, there are a lot of liars and fakes out there, so why my violent reaction - heck, why I even care at all - is kind of a mystery to me. I think it's because as a person who's working hard to become a published writer and who now has some insight into how hard it is to become published, I feel like Frey has smacked every author-hopeful in the collective face. He's taken what is tantamount to a miracle - a first time book published, endorsed by Oprah, and the second highest selling book of 2005 - and pissed on it because he lied to make it happen. So many out there work so hard for so long and play by the rules yet will never realize even one micron of success this guy has had. But he cheated his way in, and the publisher and the public fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

As I understand it, Frey's manuscript was rejected many times when he submitted it as a work of fiction. It was only when he began calling it a memoir that anyone became interested.

Which baffles my mind. If a story is a good story, told well, why would it matter if the book is fact or fiction? If the character is sympathetic enough that millions of people will read the book and find inspiration in its message - even the Book Club Goddess herself - why does it make a difference if the protagonist is real or a creation out of someone's mind? Isn't the story the same?

But I have to wonder if Oprah would have taken such an interest in the book had she believed that it was fictional. Would she have said "Tragic story, too bad there's no warm body to place on the pedestal of inspiration." Would she have passed this story over for something else? I have no idea.

In the end, though, this guy will apologize out of one side of his mouth and laugh out the other side all the way to the bank. His career as a writer might be over - and I would argue that this is not necessarily the case - but he's set already.

One of the DJs on the morning talk show I listen to made a smart observation this morning. She wondered why everyone out there is so shocked that this guy lied. After all, he was a drug addict, and lying comes with the territory. He's not exactly the model of good behaviour from the get go, so this current development isn't something that far out of left field.

True, she has a point. And honestly, I don't give two bits who this guy lies to in his personal life. But when he makes loads of money lying to the public, kind of pushes him into a higher level of despicableness.


Keziah Hill said...

He's doing very well. His whole book would've sunk without a trace in Australia but now it's prominently displayed in bookshops.

Amra Pajalic said...

I so agree with you. I will not read it, I will not buy it and I will not loan it from the library. I am so disgusted. I hope his career is over but then again all that money will go a long way. The fact that it could not be published as a novel but only as a memoir speaks of the fact that the writing is not good enough.

I was reading comments on a blog and a person said that when she read it she excused the writing on the basis that this is his life story and so she couldn't judge it too harshly but when evaluating it as a novel, then had a different pov.

Lynn M said...

Thank you, Amra!! Now I understand. Since I haven't read it, and I haven't spoken with anyone who has, I hadn't known it wasn't well written. But now that you say this, it makes sense. Editors wouldn't buy it as a novel because it was badly written, but if it's a memoir then you excuse bad writing in favor of capturing the writer's real voice for the memoir.

Still makes me sick, but at least now I get it. Sort of.