I find the whole scandal with James Frey and his book fascinating. Those of you who know me know how much I love this book, and I continue to love it to this very second, officially 4 minutes after I finished watching Oprah and a bunch of journalists talk about how embarrassed and annoyed they are about it. For those of you who don’t know, Frey is accused of, and has admitted to, embellishing (fabricating, lying) parts of the book, which was published as a non-fiction memoir. For example, instead of spending 3 years in jail, he was only there for a couple of hours. Which is a pretty decent exaggeration, I suppose.
My thoughts? Whoopee. And frankly, why do we care so much? Yes, I believe the truth is valuable, but perhaps only to a point. Should he have promoted the book as fact? No. Should he have issued some sort of a disclaimer in the beginning? Sure. But this is a book that has been an essential motivating factor in the recovery of literally thousands of addicts nation wide. Is James Frey a recovering addict? Yes. Were the facts about his addiction accurately represented in the novel? Apparently. Are the essential truths of the novel in tact? Yes. Do I think it matters if he wanted to stroke his own ego a little and exaggerate things? Not really. Probably not the best idea, especially in such a public forum, but I am yet to meet a human who doesn’t embellish his or her own life story, at least the details, a bit here and there. Especially not artists, for crying out loud. We’re all a bunch of sensationalists.
I’m reminded of Dumbo, the flying elephant, who didn’t believe he could fly. His mouse friend (whose name I never remember) told Dumbo that a magic feather would give him the ability to fly if he (coincidentally if you’ve read A Million Little Pieces) held on. So Dumbo holds on, and eventually discovers he can fly without the feather, and so on. Technically, the mouse lied to Dumbo, but that lie allowed him to accomplish something he would never have attempted otherwise. Now, granted, Frey’s motives are a bit more self serving (although I bet that mouse got a kick out of being best friends with the star of the circus). However, doesn’t his book accomplish the same sort of thing? His story provided inspiration for a whole bunch of people who may have otherwise remained un-inspired. I’d venture to say it saved some lives.
So which is better? A truth that allows people to remain hopeless and/or apathetic, or a lie that inspires them to greatness? I’m not sure I’m wise enough to say, but I will say this: Damn good book, James Frey. And I don’t care if you lied or told the truth or what. Thanks for the good read.
And good luck with the media firestorm. Hold on.