A Million Little Refunds

Uh-oh. Looks like the title of James Frey’s rehab memoir — A Million Little Pieces — may end up being an apt description of his reputation. On the heels of allegations that he fabricated significant portions of his book — which is supposed to be an account of his life before and during rehab for alcohol and crack cocaine addiction — Random House, his publisher is offering refunds to readers.

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.

"If the book was bought directly from us we will refund the purchase price in full," one Random House customer service agent told Reuters, noting readers would have to return the book with the original invoice. "If you bought it at a book store, we ask that you return the book to the book store."

Wow. Well, I didn’t buy it from the publisher, so I guess I’m stuck with my copy. Frey is going on Larry King tonight to defend the book, and himself I guess. 

Given my own reaction to the book and the reflection it caused on my part, I kind of wonder if it matters whether everything in it was true or not. But then I reconsider and thing maybe it does, if you’re claiming to tell your life story. Naturally people embroider a bit on the truth in their memoirs, but making up events that never happened or recasting and reframing actual events involving others seems to be asking for trouble, particularly in an age when anyone with an internet connection, time, and resources can research just about anyone or anything for themselves.

Fortunately, the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo (currently in its first revision) is complete fiction. So, if it ever gets published and Oprah should call I don’t think I’ll have anything to worry about. And, yes, on the outside chance that I end up getting published and on Oprah’s book list, I’m so not to much of a snob to accept the offer. I stick the "O" stickers on the book jackets myself. "Oprah Author" = Bestseller, after all. Just don’t write fiction and claim it’s your biography.

Besides, I have a blog. Why would I need to write my memoirs?

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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5 Responses to A Million Little Refunds

  1. ChgoRed says:

    What gets me is that it only took TSG 6 weeks of digging to find all this stuff.  Either the fact-checkers at Oprah and Random House didn’t work too hard, or they knew and decided to go with it anyway.  

    I have spent the past few days wondering what the atmosphere must be like at the Harpo offices.  Oh, to be a fly on that wall… 🙂

  2. Terrance says:

    It’s interesting. Listening to Frey on CNN, he said that his literary agent wasn’t sure whether to promote the book to publishers as a novel or a memoir. Frey wasn’t even sure himself.

    It’s also intersting that King reported on the show that Random House is standing by Frey and denying the story about giving customers refunds.

    It’s also interesting that Random House and CNN are subsidiaries of Warner Bros.

    It’s interesting propoganda. I tuned out before Frey’s mom made her appearance.

  3. Greg says:

    I still like the work and remain unaffected by the hubbub about this.  If the book significantly impacted you, for good or not, then it remains a powerful piece of writing, regardless of fact based or not.  Besides, it’s his interpretation of events, not a nonfiction history; even if the events didn’t happen, it’s still subjective.

  4. keri says:

    "…regardless of fact based or not."

    I think that’s bullshit. If it doesn’t matter whether fact or fiction then why did he keep so many non-thruths from the original fiction-draft but sell it as nonfiction/creative memoir? Maybe because no one would publish it when it made the rounds as fiction and he felt the only way he could sell it was to jump on the current memoir craze (which I’m not bashing in the least btw – I am an avid memoir reader).  I think he’s done a huge disservice to the genre by abusing it and including lies as personal history.

    "Besides, it’s his interpretation of events, not a nonfiction history; even if the events didn’t happen, it’s still subjective. "

    Again I call BS. I heard him try repeating this talking point last night on Larry King, as if merely stating the same thing over and over and never answering a direct question would absolve him of any wrongdoing. Reminded me MIGHTILY of politicians and Bush officials in particular. 

    It’s really very simple: Did you lie about hitting a cop with your car, facing a potential 8 years in prison, actually doing 3 months in jail, being wanted in 3 states, having a close relationship with a girl who tragically died in your town and then saying the town blamed you for it, reading to an illiiterate inmate…on and on.  He won’t answer straightforward questions like these.

    And those are not problems with "interpretation of events."  Those are problems with making entire events up or inserting yourself into events where you were not.

    When writing memoir or creative nonfiction it is known that the author’s take on events is subjective, and he has creative license to embellish the details of facts (ex: describing a conversation from 10 years ago in detail, even though you can’t possibly remember the detail but you remember the essential point and meaning of it). But you don’t have license to fabricate facts and then sell those whoppers as NONfiction, memoir or creative nonfiction. It is an abuse of the genre and of the readers’  trust and it makes me sick to my stomach to hear it defended.

  5. J Macdonald says:

    Of all the blog stories I have come across talking about james Frey’s book,  I have to say that your title is the best.

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