Thursday, January 26, 2006

James Frey

A couple of weeks ago, I came out and said on my blog that I was still supportive of James Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces, because at the time, I thought his work was only slightly embellished, but now I realize after seeing his interview today on Oprah, that much of his work was a lie. There is a big difference!

The standard of truth must be upheld in non-fiction. Of course, one person's truth is different from that of the next person, because we are all affected by experiences differently, and so remember incidents differently. However, in Frey's case, it is not even HIS truth--he knowingly altered his book so it would sell--so he would appear as more of a bad ass.

I've often wished my life was just a little more dramatic--a little more interesting. Amazing and out-of-the-ordinary happenings rarely take place in my life. Yeah, it would have made for a more interesting retelling of my first ultrasound with Samuel had I gone in there and they said, "Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn, we aren't showing one, but two fetuses. You're going to have twins." Then, maybe a few weeks later, an ultrasound shows that one of the fetus' did not make it. We're back to one baby. But, now I've added more pain and more drama to my life. Altering and lying about even that one detail in the sonographer's office changes the perception of a reader's impression of my life story, because now they'll always think of me as a woman who has lost one of her two babies. Definitely makes that first ultrasound incident in my life sound more interesting, and more readers are going to like it, and more copies are going to sell. So, changing even that ONE incident in my life changes a reader's perception of my life. AT this point, who cares about the underlying truth of my book, because the truth has been slighted--so, there is no truth at all.

James Frey compromised his truth, making his truth fictional. He didn't have root canals without novacaine (apparently his editor did, though, which is why she accepted his story without checking facts). Lily did not hang herself--she slit her wrists. He did not leave the treatment center with two people--there were only one. He was not in prison for 87 days--it was only a few hours.

It's a novel based on true events. Frey committed a crime against literature--to make some money, he compromised his authority and integrity. His novel was so much more powerful as a memoir. People loved that it was true. But, it wasn't.

You know, the recent film Munich had quite an impact on me, and the film stated at the beginning that it was based on true events. Because Spielberg did not try to pass off the entire film as true, I was able to sit back and let the power of the film have its effect on me. A Million Little Pieces did not make that claim. It was passed off as truth. And that is why readers feel betrayed.

Karli
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